The first of January is a time of change in France always. Very often when new legislation is introduced, it begins from the first of the new year. So this year, as well as the ban on pesticides in public spaces, we have the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco and cigarettes. I took the opportunity to photograph the new packaging when at the newsagents the other day. (In other news, we have new proprietors at the newsagent, a young couple with a baby boy, so I've now established that I am the slight odd Australian who writes a blog and asks to photograph the cigarettes.)
All cigarette packaging has to be the same plain olive green colour no matter what the brand. The brand name has to be in white and the same standard typeface as every other brand. The health warning must be both visual and text and take up at least 65% of the packaging (an increase from 30-40%). It is designed to shock.
Australia introduced plain packaging for tobacco products in 2012 and has apparently seen a decline in smoking. Marisol Touraine, the French Health Minister says that 'Plain packaging is ugly and intentionally so. The aim is to destroy the attractiveness of many cigarette packs'.
This is quite a turnaround from the years between 1935 and 1971 when the French tobacco industry was a State owned monopoly which controlled the manufacture, importation and retailing of tobacco products (and matches) in France. Personally I am dubious that plain packaging will have any effect, but smoking is certainly reducing in France and has been for a number of years, especially amongst men (young women are the most likely to take it up). The smoking ban in public interior spaces has been very effective and is largely respected. The only place I regularly see it openly flouted is railway station platforms. The other knock-on effect is that choosing to dine on the terrace at restaurants means joining the smokers, and there is an ongoing argument about vaping (Mme Touraine doesn't approve of it). She is also quite rightly worried about the number of French women who smoke while pregnant (the highest proportion in Europe).