• France's news in English
 

French MPs' lunch with big tobacco causes a stir

Published: 03 Jun 2013 12:05 GMT+02:00

Reports of the €10,000 meal come after French health minister Marisol Touraine announced last week she would put forward a bill to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public, enclosed spaces.

The timing of the dinner has some French observers questioning the state's relationship to tobacco vendors, especially at a time when the tobacco industry is in transition.

Tax hikes on tobacco in recent years, calls in some quarters for 'plain packaging' in France, and a looming ban on electronic cigarettes, provide a heady political backdrop for the opulent meal. 

French weekly Le Journal de Dimanche (JDD) reported on Sunday that tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT) had treated several French deputies to frogs' legs, veal and top-notch Bourgougne wine at the Chez Francoise restaurant in Paris last Wednesday.

The luncheon, hosted by BAT France President Soraya Zoueihid, was topped off with Cuban cigars, and added up to a bill of around €10,000.

The deputies (and one Senator) - among them André Santini, Patrick Balkany, François Sauvadet, Jean-Claude Lenoir, Odile Saugues and former junior budget minister  Dominique Bussereau - are members of the parliamentary Cuban cigar club.

The newspaper also noted that Galdéric Sabatier, from the finance ministry, was one of those in attendance at Wednesday’s lunch. Sabatier is third in command at the customs administration, which fixes tobacco prices in France.

Despite the setting, however, conversation went far beyond the culinary, according to JDD.

Zoueihid allegedly discussed “the need to have balanced and coherent [tobacco] regulations” with deputies who look set to vote soon on a bill which would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public.

BAT counts cigarette brands such as Lucky Strike, Vogue and Dunhill in its stable, but has also made its own forays into the electronic cigarette market. 

Last week a spokesman from London-based market intelligence firm Euromonitor International told The Local a ban on electronic cigarettes in public would be “highly damaging” to the growing electronic cigarette industry, a major rival to traditional tobacco.

JDD noted that the invite from BAT contradicted an anti-tobacco initiative from the World Health Organization (WHO), which France has signed.

The accord maintains that "the state must guard against politicians being influenced by the interests of the tobacco industry".

Socialist deputy Odile Saugues told the newspaper that the lunch was part of a relationship with BAT in which the giant tobacco company discusses tobacco-related issues.

”BAT maintains its relationships in order to weigh up and share ideas,” Saugues told JDD.

”But that doesn't change anything, I vote in favour of all price increases (of tobacco products).”

Public servants familiar to the relationship between lobbyists and lawmakers, meanwhile, told JDD that the industry and the state have reached an equilibrium of sorts over the price of cigarettes.

Since 2009, the French state has made a packet of cigarettes 30 cents more expensive each year, producing a 4.5 percent decrease in sales, which the tobacco companies have so far made up for with the increased prices.

”Above all, this level allows the state not to lose its fiscal income,” an anonymous public servant told the French weekly.

News of the extravagant lunch broke just days after Health Minister Marisol Touraine confirmed that the French government will seek to outlaw the use of electronic cigarettes in public.

Around half a million French people are estimated to use electronic cigarettes as a way of weening themselves off traditional tobacco.

People can freely use them in bars and restaurants, wheretraditional smoking is banned as well as at work.

The battery powered,pen-sized products contain liquid nicotine that is turned into a vapour which is then inhaled.

“The e-cigarette is not an ordinary product,” the minister said last week.

“Weneed to apply the same measures as there are for tobacco. That means making sure it cannot be smoked in public places, that its sale is restricted to over 18s and that firms are not allowed to advertise the products,” she added.

A representative from BAT France was not available for comment at the time of writing.

Staff reporter (news@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France opens probe into Qatar forced labour
Vinci and its QDVC subsidiary are facing a suit alleging forced labour in Qatar. Photo: AFP

France opens probe into Qatar forced labour

French prosecutors said Saturday they had opened a preliminary probe into a lobby group's claims that construction giant Vinci is using forced labour on building projects for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. READ  

Foiled Paris Church Attack
Thwarted French jihadist faces terror charges
The suspect is still being treated in a hospital in Paris. Photo: AFP

Thwarted French jihadist faces terror charges

An Algerian jihadist sympathiser arrested in connection with a thwarted attack on a church in France was charged with terror-related murder Friday after five days of police questioning. READ  

French recycling rates slammed as 'disastrous'
The "Triman" recycling logo next to trash containers in Paris. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

French recycling rates slammed as 'disastrous'

Less than a quarter of household waste in France is recycled according to a report this week, a statistic that a French consumer watchdog has described as “disastrous” and well below that of the country's European neighbours. READ  

Putin calls on Hollande to mend ties to help trade
Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande arrive into the Genocide memorial, on April 24, 2015 in Yerevan. Photo: AFP

Putin calls on Hollande to mend ties to help trade

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his French counterpart François Hollande to restore ties that have been undermined by tension over Ukraine. For his part Hollande told Puting to ensure there the peace accords were implemented. READ  

French may be enforced on all flights to Canada

French may be enforced on all flights to Canada

It could soon become obligatory for all airlines serving Canada to ensure French speakers are among the crew and announcements are made in both French and English. The move was inspired by a row on an Air Canada flight over a can of lemonade. READ  

Foiled Paris church attack
Foiled terror suspect 'controlled' from Syria
Sid Ahmed Ghlam, who is suspected of planning a Charlie Hebdo style attack on churches in Paris. Photo: Screengrab iTele

Foiled terror suspect 'controlled' from Syria

The student suspected of planning to launch a terror attack on churches in Paris was to appear before judges on Friday as police become convinced he was "controlled remotely by mysterious men" probably in Syria. READ  

French prof suspended for 'defending Hitler'
The teacher allegedly told students Hitler was a "good man". Photo of a classroom: Shutterstock

French prof suspended for 'defending Hitler'

A teacher at a high school in central France has been temporarily suspended after her pupils reported her to education chiefs for allegedly repeatedly defending Adolf Hitler during German lessons. READ  

Hollande urges Turkey over Armenian genocide
French president François Hollande arrives in Armenia for a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Photo: AFP

Hollande urges Turkey over Armenian genocide

French president François Hollande has urged Turkey to end its refusal to recognise the massacre of Armenians during World War One. READ  

Indonesia prepares to execute Frenchman
French drug convict and death row prisoner Serge Atlaoui (C) is escorted by police upon his arrival at Tangerang court outside Jakarta on April 1, 2015. Photo: AFP

Indonesia prepares to execute Frenchman

Desperate diplomatic calls from France and the EU urging Indonesia to spare the life of a Frenchman on death row appear have fallen on deaf ears with the convicted drug trafficker set to be executed in the coming days. READ  

Mediterranean Migrants Crisis
France wants UN support to destroy migrant boats
Amnesty International activists and migrants protest before a meeting of the European Council on Mediterranean migrants crisis in Brussels, on April 23, 2015. Photo: AFP

France wants UN support to destroy migrant boats

France will go to the UN to try to get backing for the EU to destroy boats used by migrant traffickers in the Mediterranean. Paris also joined Berlin and London in pledging more ships and aircraft after an emergency summit in Brussels. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
How to disguise the fact you are clearly not French
France desperately hunts for church terror plot accomplices
Can France really protect 4,500 churches around the country?
WARNING - When in France use first names with caution
So what does the world's oldest bubbly taste like?
British expats left in lurch by NHS clampdown
Tossing cigarette butts in Paris to prompt €68 fines
Culture
Cannes Film Festival reveals jury
Flamanville: France's nuclear 'calamity' that has the UK worried
Features
Forget the Mona Lisa, here's the weirdest objects you can see around Paris
For many Britons 'Waterloo' is just an Abba song or a train station
IN PICTURES: See the French ship 'Hermione' set sail again for the US
Opinion
Is it time the French scrapped tu and vous?
National
Sexual harassment rife on Paris trains
National
Marine Le Pen makes Time 'most influential' list
Cannes Film Festival line-up revealed
National
Cartoonist's book slams 'Islamophobia swindlers'
National
More French women than men lured by Isis
Society
Les Entrepreneurs: We chat with the founder of Paris Picnic
National
Edith Piaf celebrated at Parisian exhibit
How the health reforms will change life in France
Gallery
Naked protests: The French love to take their clothes off to make a point
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Then and now - the site of the Alps plane crash
Travel
So why would anyone really want to live in Lille?
Opinion
Why the French should be very worried about new spying powers
National
Spain's newest export to France: Vultures
Did a row over stolen veg lead to the murder of a British expat in France?
VIDEO: French rail chiefs SNCF furious after the Paris-Roubaix race
Sport
What the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris would look like
Culture
IN PICS: Take a look inside France's new 36,000 year-old tourist site
International
Did the Pope reject France's envoy to the Vatican because he was gay?
Cyberjihad: Hacking of French TV channel was 'a step up'
Politics
PROFILE: Jean-Marie Le Pen - France's far-right master provocateur
National
France's fatigued 'anti-terror' police resort to calling sick
National
Dipping baguette in a bowl of coffee! - French habits foreigners don't get
Strike latest: Scores of flights cancelled in France
Features
New Calais migrant camp 'the worst in Europe'
Society
ASK THE EXPERTS: So why are the French always on strike?
National
French air traffic control strike: Tourists face travel chaos
Culture
Which stars will land an invite to the Cannes Film Festival?
Technology
Paris holds film festival for blind cinema goers
National
Paris wants to triple its number of cyclists by 2020
National
Readers tell us of the joys of living in France's 'expat no-go zones'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se