The French are known for their love of smoking, but the country’s top social welfare leader wants to change that.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine is to put forth June 17 tough new legislation that would ban all company branding and colour from cigarette packs, similar to a ground breaking 2012 Australian rule. A maximum of 65 percent of the package could be covered with written or visual anti-smoking messages, which would be a 25 percent increase over the current 40 percent limit, French daily Le Figaro reported.
The intent is to lessen the appeal of smoking to younger people by eliminating the cachet attached to certain brand names and will known symbols, like the bright red of Marlboro packages.
As has been long expected, Touraine’s bill also would seek to apply the country’s public smoking ban to the booming use of electronic cigarettes. Currently users can fire up the devices in bars, cafes and restaurants because the devices use vapor and not smoke to deliver nicotine.
In addition Touraine’s legislation would give smokers the right to organize and seek hefty damage settlements from tobacco companies, similar to class action lawsuits in the United States that have resulted in billions of dollars in damages being awarded.
While the law is likely to be cheered by anti-smoking advocates, it is expected to meet some powerful foes as well.
“Without a doubt the tobacco industry will use all legal recourse possible in France and in the world against this bill,” wrote Le Figaro.
The French love affair with tobacco and nicotine could a bit of suspicion from the public as well. While a recent survey showed smoking was down in France, about 27 percent of the population now versus 33 percent in 2010, just a year earlier it was rising.
France is known for its thin waist lines and generally healthy lifestyle, yet smoking cigarettes have stubbornly held their appeal in the country. And the cost has been great. Some 200 French people die of smoking-related causes everyday.
Banning e-cigarettes could damage the country's burgeoning trade in the devices.
“If they ban it in public or in the workplace, I’ll be closing my store, or moving it somewhere where there aren’t restrictions like that,” Darren Moon, the English proprietor of Vapshop.fr told The Local previously.
“20 percent of our business is selling disposable e-cigarettes to restaurants, clubs, bars and hotels. So if there’s a workplace ban, I’d have to start firing people,” he added, noting that his sales have seen “20 to 25 percent growth” every month.
French use has exploded amid a debate over whether the devices are a safer alternative to cigarettes, which contain carcinogenic tar. However, health experts are worried about certain chemicals contained in the liquid used in the devices, most notably the compound propylene glycol.
The French consumer association ‘60 million Consumers’ has warned in a report that electronic cigarettes are “not as safe” as their manufacturers make them out to be and could even be “potentially carcinogenic”.
“Findings such as these should always be compared to [the risks] of smoking ordinary cigarettes,” Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a cardiology researcher at University Hospital Gathuisberg in Belgium told The Local.