The French government is going in a renewed anti –cancer drive as part of the ongoing debate in the country’s legislature for a new health law, which has already resulted in measures to combat anorexia.
Smoking new becomes the new focus through a series of new measures. The first, which has already been passed by French MPs is to follow the examples of Australia, Ireland and the UK and introduce the plain packaging of cigarettes being sold in France. Under the new measures cigarette manufacturers will have to pack cigarettes in plain packets which will bear no logos and which will be identical for all brands except a small mention of their brand name in uniform lettering.
The debate however was not smooth as some French MPs criticized the move as another attack on the country’s tobacconists, who are already suffering, and claimed that when implemented plain packaging will definitely increase the smuggling of cigarettes into France and the sale of counterfeit, contraband cigarettes.
Defending the government backed proposal however, the country’s Health Minister highlighted that tobacco kills 73.000 French people each year and that plain packaging is an effective measure against smoking as illustrated by Australia’s example, where after it was implemented the number of smokers in the country is falling by 3% each year.
Besides plain packaging, French MPs also adopted several other anti-smoking measures, which include an extra tax on cigarette manufacturers if their turnover either rises or fails to fall less than 3%, which is the government’s target for the reduction in sales. Moreover, tobacconists selling tobacco products will be obliged to ask for proof that their customers are over 18 years old, while they will be banned from opening tobacconists’ shops near schools. In addition, cigarette manufacturers will see tighter limits being imposed on their sponsorship rights, while the new measures also requires more transparency from them when lobbying for their products and positions. Finally, and although the original draft of the legislation had an age limit of 12 years old, MPs decided to ban smoking in cars if the passengers are under 18 years old.
These measures follow on the recent unveiling of plans by the French government to make it illegal for French citizens to buy cheap cigarettes on foreign websites. Although selling cigarettes online is already illegal in France, buying them is not punishable by law and thus many French smokers resort to the internet in order to be able to buy cheap cigarettes, especially from countries such as Ireland, which has lower tobacco taxes than elsewhere in Europe. In order for this measure to succeed and to be able to punish the buyers, the French government will have to work closely with online sellers, who will be obliged to register, in order to identify buyers.
This particular measure for banning the purchase of cheap cigarettes online by the French, was demanded by French tobacconists as well who said that they cannot compete with online sales and that their profession is already being hit hard enough by the anti-smoking campaign. The government was quick to satisfy this demand, not least because it estimates that loses around 400 million euros in revenues every year due to online foreign purchases carried out by French residents.