Plain packaging will be enforced as part of a law to be presented in France in the coming months, health minister Marisol Touraine said recently at a cabinet meeting. The law will allow for the cigarette brand names to be stated on the packages with standardized “neutral” lettering. Touraine aims to cut the number of smokers in France by 10% by 2019 and for the country to have less than 20% of adults smoking by 2024.
France is joining Britain and Ireland in moving toward banning distinctive tobacco packaging. With 31% percent of adults smoking daily, France has the third-highest rate of smoking in Western Europe behind Greece and Austria, according to the World Health Organization.
Imperial Tobacco, the maker of Gauloises Blondes and Davidoff cigarettes, says the packaging ban won’t work and is considering legal action.
“The plain-packaging debate rumbles on in a small number of countries including France, but the case remains that there is no credible evidence to support its introduction anywhere,” Imperial said in an emailed statement. “It makes no sense for the French government to rush in.”
Policymakers, tobacco executives, and analysts are looking to Australia, where standardized packaging was introduced in December 2012. The tobacco firms say that after a year and a half of plain packaging there, the introduction has led to an increase in illicit tobacco sales. On the other hand, anti-smoking group ASH says Australian government figures showing a drop in adult smoking rates are a direct result of plain packaging.
“It is baffling that without any form of consultation with businesses or the public, a French health minister would propose a policy which breaches several European Union laws,” said British American Tobacco in a statement recently. “Not only would plain packaging not help achieve any health benefit but it would reduce much needed tax revenue for the French government as more French smokers turn to the black market for branded packs or travel to buy tobacco at border shops.”