In December, he scrapped the fuel tax increase the sparked the protests by car-dependent rural dwellers.
The French leader said the debate would help the government develop policies and France's position on the European and worldwide scene.
Turnout was being closely watched for signs of possible fatigue in the movement as it enters its third month and Macron's 'great national debate gains momentum.
Protesters wearing yellow vests carry a banner in a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement, in Paris, France, on January 19, 2019.
Around 7,000 demonstrators were registered in Paris and 27,000 across France, according to the French Ministry of Interior, while 84,000 people participated in the Yellow Vest protests last week.
Despite a relative decline in crowd trouble in Paris, however, disturbances have flared up in other cities.
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In Toulouse, some 10,000 rioters vandalized a bank and other shops on Saturday night; there were 23 arrests.
But many yellow vests have announced plans to boycott the discussions scheduled in dozens of towns and villages, seeing them as an attempt to drain support from a movement that erupted in mid-November over fuel taxes and quickly broadened into a campaign of weekly protests that have regularly ended in clashes with police and destruction of property.
In a statement, he argued that more people will be injured when police does not use tear gas. Reuters correspondents also reported disturbances in Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille, while the local government building was attacked in Angers, northwest of Paris.
The protests come as President Emmanuel Macron attempted to kick off a series of townhall debates, hoping to put an end to the national criticism.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen - soundly beaten by Macron in the 2017 presidential election - is looking to take advantage of the "yellow vest" crisis and win ground in the May 2019 European Parliament elections.
"It fills me with fury to see our attractive town attacked in this way, in particular the damage caused to symbols of the republic", Orphelin said in a statement.