[May 30, 2014]PARIS (Reuters) - France is
considering a move to brandless packets to curb smoking,
instituting one of the world's toughest anti-tobacco
policies in the home of chain-smoking singer Serge
Gainsbourg and no-filter Gauloises cigarettes.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine is due to present a law next month
that would stop cigarette manufacturers from printing their
distinctive logos on packages, Le Figaro newspaper reported on
Plain packaging, with the cigarette brand written in small lettering
under a graphic health warning, would be among a raft of radical
measures to curb smoking, including a ban on using e-cigarettes, or
"vaping", in public places, Le Figaro said.
Australia pioneered plain packaging for cigarettes in 2012 and
Britain, New Zealand and Ireland all plan similar bans.
In a statement, France's Health Ministry said it was studying
several options to curb smoking.
"We are far from the point of taking any decisions and no particular
course of action has been determined so far," the ministry said.
With its cafe culture and chain-smoking Nouvelle Vague movie stars,
France earned a reputation as a smokers' paradise after World War
Two. Iconic dark-tobacco brands like Gitanes, favored by Gainsbourg,
who smoked up to five packs a day, and Gauloises, preferred by
philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, grew hugely popular, in part thanks to
their stylish packaging.
While the reputation sticks, smoking rates in France have since
plummeted. Less than a third of the population now lights up
regularly, which is about average for the European Union and down
sharply from nearly 60 percent in the 1960s.
Tough anti-tobacco laws were introduced in 1991 which banned smoking
in public places, forced cigarette manufacturers to display health
warnings on packets and forbade large-scale advertising on
billboards and TV.
Advocates of plain packaging argue that stripping packets of
eye-catching logos is effective in reducing smoking among young
people. Currently, one in three French people aged 15 to 19 is a
smoker, according to the Health Ministry.
As French smoking rates have declined, so has the country's
once-vibrant tobacco industry. The state-owned Seita brand that
produced Gauloises and Gitanes was bought by Britain's Imperial
Tobacco in 2008, and much of its production moved abroad.
In April, Imperial Tobacco announced the closure of the largest
Gauloise cigarette factory in France, prompting the factory's 327
workers to go on strike and hold five managers hostage on the
worksite, near Nantes, this week.
The managers were released on Thursday after a day of captivity.
(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Catherine Evans)