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Makers of Gauloises cigs fight France on plain packets

The tobacco company that owns famous French cigarette brands Gaulloises and Gitanes is fighting a French law that imposes plain packaging.

Makers of Gauloises cigs fight France on plain packets
Photo: AFP

Seita, the French subsidiary of Britain's Imperial Tobacco and the maker of the iconic Gauloises and Gitanes cigarettes, said on Tuesday it would appeal to France's top court against regulations imposing plain packaging.

The appeal to the Council of State, France's top administrative court, won't suspend the regulation from entering force on January 1.

“Our rights to use our brands, several of which were created more than 100 years ago in France, should be respected,” Seita's director for global corporate affiars Axel Gietz said in a statement.

France published in March a decree introducing plain packages, the culmination of efforts launched by the government in 2014 to require tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in packages that contain neither logos nor distinctive colouring.

Seita said the decree suppresses four out of five distinctive elements of a brand under French intellectual property laws, thus depriving businesses owners of their rights under the French constitution.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) said it had filed an appeal immediately after the publication of the decree in March.

In 2012, Australia became the first country to mandate plain packaging for cigarettes in a bid to reduce smoking rates, and tobacco companies have so far failed to overturn it using intellectual property arguments.

Tobacco firms also failed to have the matter accepted for international arbitration.

Meanwhile, the EU's top court last week ruled that the bloc's new laws on plain tobacco packaging and a ban on menthol cigarettes were legal.

Britain is set to begin introducing plain packaging later this month, although the country's High Court is expected to soon hand down a ruling on the measure which would have packages covered with health warnings.

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SMOKING

‘One million French people’ give up smoking in just 12 months

One million French smokers who previously sparked up everyday have given up smoking in the last 12 months, the country's Ministry of Health revealed on Monday, suggesting France's reputation as Europe's chimney might no longer be appropriate.

'One million French people' give up smoking in just 12 months
Photo: AFP
The government is claiming it as a win for their policy of escalating the price of cigarettes in increments to €10 by 2020 which they say is acting as a “deterrent” for many smokers. 
 
In 2017, 26.9 percent of 18- to 75-year-olds smoked every day, compared to 29.4 percent a year earlier. 
 
One of the key trends is the decline “among the most disadvantaged smokers” for “the first time since 2000,” the ministry said in a statement.
 
“These results are encouraging, they mark a break [with old habits],” said France's Health Minister Agnès Buzyn. “With the rise in tax [on cigarettes] we can hope that these results are sustainable.”
 
“Tobacco is a trajectory of inequality, it weighs particularly on the most disadvantaged and it gets worse,” said the minister.
 
Among the “most disadvantaged” people France, 34 percent smoked every day in 2017, against 38.8 percent in 2016 and among the unemployed, 43.5 percent smoked in 2017 compared to 49.7 percent in 2016. 
 
“On top of the rise in national tax, which has already proved fruitful, we are working at the European level on a European tax framework,” said Buzyn.
 
“In France, I remind you, tobacco kills 200 people every day (…) We know that one in two smokers will die of tobacco,” said the minister, adding that it is necessary “to continue this major fight against one of the biggest scourges of public health.”
 
Cutting down on the number of smokers in France has been a key aim of the current government since it came into power last year. 
 
In 2017, The Local reported that French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had said that with 80,000 tobacco-related deaths in France each year, “doing nothing is not an option”.
 
Tobacco “is the leading cause of preventable death, and daily use is growing among adolescents,” the premier said in a speech to parliament.
 
And in January 2017, the previous government introduced plain packaging — with its accompanying shocking photos — in the hope that it would decrease the number of French smokers.
 
The price of a packet of cigarettes has increased incrementally, with smokers currently paying an average of €7.90 euros, according to France's Ministry of Health.
 
READ ALSO:
The French and smoking: Is France really 'Europe's chimney'
French actress Brigitte Bardot lights up a film set, but times have changed since the heedy and very smoky 1960s. Photo: AFP
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