-Article by Alice Ferré
After four years of debates and arm wrestling with the tobacco industry and newsagents unions, the French Senate voted for selling “neutral,” same looking packs of cigarettes at the end of November. This hitherto unseen measure in France, offered by Secretary of Health and Human Services Marisol Touraine, aims to dissuade the youth from developing smoking habits and hope to hinder sales.
France is the second country to implement the “neutral” packs, after Australia in December 2012. Adieu camels, eagles, Viking helmets, and legendary fonts. The packs are now of a dark, mud-like green color, and are 65% covered with preventive texts and graphic pictures of diseases warning smokers of consequences of their deadly guilty pleasure (previous packs presented 30% to 40% of pictorial prevention only.) The unattractive aspect of the packs is supposed to influence and modify the behavior and perception of smokers; theoretically, the more repugnant the packaging is, the less prone smokers will be to consume. This supposition is yet to be proven by a potential decrease in sales within the following months. Critics contend this change will instead prompt consumers to buying cigarettes abroad or on the Internet.
Prices have already multiplied by three in the past decade; however, this reform promises another increase which worries many local tobacconists, as one pack of cigarettes may round up around 10 euros in the following years. This will likely spur smokers to buy tobacco from neighboring countries like Italy or Spain, where prices are between 4 or 6 euros. The government itself would also suffer if sales continued to decline: in 2014, it had benefited from 14 billion euros from the tobacco industry.
By January 1, regular packs will no longer be sold.