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France to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes

The French government has officially passed a number of anti-smoking laws proposed last year by the health minister. As well as neutral cigarette packaging, the country’s smokers can expect a crackdown on smoking in cars with children, ‘vaping’ bans in some public places and sanctions on electronic cigarette flavours.

The amendments to the Health Bill were made at a Parliament meeting held yesterday, Wednesday 18th March, in reflection of the measures proposed by Health Minister Marisol Touraine in September 2014.

The most high-profile – and controversial, given the outcry from tobacco brands and vendors – is the implementation of neutral cigarette packaging.

As of 20th May 2016, all tobacco packaging will be standardised, with all packets made the same shape, size, colour and with the same typeset, reports Le Figaro. Brand logos will also be prohibited, although the printing of brand names is permitted. This concerns not only cigarettes and loose tobacco, but all smoking paraphernalia, including tobacco rolling papers and filters.

France is only the second country in the world to introduce such measures, after Australia ruled in 2012 that all cigarettes must be sold in neutralised, logo-free packaging. However, the UK is following suit and last month MPs voted in favour of making the same move. If passed it would also become effective in May next year.

Smoking in cars with children present will also be banned, with drivers found to be doing so facing a fine. The main objective is to limit children’s exposure to cigarette smoke, with the added aim of fighting against the trivialisation of smoking to young people. A common argument is that the more a child is exposed to the act, the more normal and accepted it becomes to them. It is as yet unclear when this measure will come into effect.

While they don’t officially fall within laws surrounding smoking in public, vaporisers are to be banned in some areas, including schools and public transport. And, according to Marisol Touraine, while they are of course a better alternative to tobacco, vaporisers and e-cigarettes could serve as a “gateway to smoking” for young people.

Finally, the creation of electronic cigarettes in varying artificial flavours is to be forbidden, amid claims that this makes them more appealing to young people.

The main aim of the plan is to reduce the number of smokers to fewer than 20% of the population within 10 years, compared with today’s figure of 28%. Smoking currently causes 78,000 deaths a year in France.

Madeleine Adey

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