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France: Legislation Requiring Plain Packaging for Cigarettes to Be Developed

(Oct. 8, 2014) The French Health Minister has announced a new plan to reduce tobacco use in France by requiring that cigarettes be sold in plain packs. (Press Kit, Programme National de Réduction du Tabagisme [National Program for the Reduction of Tobacco Use], Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, and Women’s Rights (Sept. 25, 2014).) Under the proposed rules, cigarettes would have to be sold in standardized packs, all the same shape, size, and color and featuring the same typography. (Id. at 6.) The intent of imposing such plain packaging is to neutralize the attractiveness of cigarette packs linked to branding and design and to increase the visibility of health warnings. (Id.)

By mandating plain packaging for cigarettes, France would be following the example set by Australia, which is currently the only country in the world to have implemented such a measure. (See Kelly Buchanan, Australia: Plain Packaging Law Upheld by High Court, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Aug. 16, 2012); Solveig Godeluck, Pierre-Alain Furbury, & Elsa Freyssenet, Tabac: le paquet de cigarettes “neutres” sans logo bientot en France [Tobacco: Logo-Less “Neutral” Cigarette Packs Soon to Appear in France], LES ECHOS (Sept. 23, 2014).)

Other aspects of the proposed legislation include prohibiting smoking in a car in the presence of children under 12 years of age, prohibiting smoking on public playgrounds, regulating advertising of electronic cigarettes, prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes in certain public spaces, and taking measures to help smokers quit. (Programme National de Réduction du Tabagisme, supra, at 6-11.)

The tobacco industry, including tobacco retailers, is unhappy with these proposals. The government has suggested increased enforcement against the sale of tobacco products on the black market, in part as a measure to benefit tobacco retailers. Despite this, however, representatives of the tobacco retail sector have complained that the proposed legislation appears very unbalanced. (Laurence Girard, François Béguin, & Laetitia Clavreul, L’Instauration du paquet neutre, une « douche froide » pour les buralistes [The Implementation of Plain Packaging, a “Cold Shower” for Tobacconists], LE MONDE (Sept. 24, 2014).) If mandatory plain packaging becomes law in France, it is possible that members of the tobacco industry would attempt to invalidate the measure through litigation. (Id.)