The image of smoking has been linked strongly with the cool aspects of French society for decades. From philosophers Sartre and Camus through to the sexy celebrities of stage and screen, Gitanes and Gauloises have synonymous with the nation’s tabacs, brasseries and bars. The distinctive odour that has pervaded the air looks set to be blown away as the country looks to tackle the problem of 78,000 annual smoking-related deaths.
National paper Le Figaro has reported that the new public health law can ban any product that includes an element that contributes to “the promotion of tobacco or give an erroneous impression of certain characteristics”. They continue to say that the new law has been worded so vaguely that it can include any reference to “masculinity or femininity, physical slimness, youth or sociability”. This could, so it is claimed, include packs of Gitanes because they depict a woman dancing.
Big T is up in arms. A collection of companies have sent the prime minister a letter demanding the right to appeal against any ban and appealed for a meeting “given the seriousness and urgency of the situation”. They claim the health department “appears to have an extremely wide interpretation of the rules”, accusing the minister of being arbitrary and disproportionate.
Another feature of the new legislation is that the health department is throwing its weight behind the vaping revolution. Following the lead taken in Britain, French officials now recognize that electronic cigarettes are “an effective tool for smokers who are looking to reduce or replace tobacco”.
It is reported that the Tabac Info Service, run by Public Health France, said: “according to the latest work of the High Council on Public Health, electronic cigarettes can constitute a tool to help stop or reduce consumption of tobacco” and also “reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses such as cancer”. It goes on to add that vaping devices: “are much less harmful than traditional cigarettes".
A spokesperson for Fontem Ventures is quoted saying: “This advice is extremely welcome, as it shows that France is following in the footsteps of other European countries and recognising that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking traditional tobacco products and should be encouraged as an alternative. We hope that more European countries will heed this advice and take a serious look at the public health evidence in favour of electronic cigarettes as an alternative for traditional tobacco products.”