Farmer's Voice

Plain Packaging: Clause removed from the French proposed health bill

The French Senate's Social Affairs Committee on July 22nd removed a clause from a proposed health bill that would have required plain packaging for tobacco products, instead passing an amendment requiring health warnings to be made larger, in line with the EU Tobacco Products Directive. As the committee debated the health bill, tobacconists opposed to the PP provision dumped four tons of carrots outside the ruling Socialist party's headquarters in Paris. They chose the carrot because it resembles the sign outside French tobacconists. The tobacconists' union Confe´de´ration des Buralistes welcomed the Senate committee's decision to take out the PP clause, with its spokesperson Pascal Montredon saying the tobacconists wanted nothing more than the Tobacco Products Directive applied. The National Assembly (lower house) passed the PP clause in April, and the socialist government could reintroduce that PP clause when the health bill returns to the lower house in September. Taxes on tobacco products generate € 14 million (US$ 15.3 mn) a year in government revenue, but tobacco control advocates say that amount is outweighed by cost of smoking-related health care (Guardian 7/22)

Reiterating that plain packaging is likely to remain a "slow-moving headwind," Morgan Stanley said if the health bill in France is approved as reported, it would come to a vote by the broader Senate, which is scheduled to reconvene in early September, then if approved by the Senate, it would move to a bipartisan committee that would work to reconcile the differences between the National Assembly and the Senate's versions, after which the bill would revert to Parliament in late 2015 or early 2016. The July 22nd decision by the Senate Social Affairs Committee replaces PP with a measure to require health warnings on 65% of the pack, as per the EU Tobacco Products Directive. Morgan Stanley said the committee's decision is "clearly a positive development" though it still needs to move through more stages before it can TMA Founded 1915 TEL: (609) 275-4900 be finalized. The opposition to PP in France could influence other markets that are considering similar action, MS said, adding that nine EU countries previously filed objections with the EU concerning Ireland's PP rules, and Belgium recently decided not to pursue such a measure. The latest development in France also supports MS's view that there is a low risk of a rapid spread in PP, it said. Real-world arguments supporting PP are limited, as the industry has seen little impact on cigarette volumes in Australia since that country implemented PP in December 2012, MS said. The industry also has strong legal defenses, especially in the EU where a prior 2002 EU Court of Justice ruling reinforced the industry's ability to maintain space for branding on their packs, MS said (Morgan Stanley 7/22)

Days before the Senate committee's July 22nd discussion on the health bill, tobacconists in the Midi- Pyre´ne´es and Corre`ze regions covered speed cameras with black trash bags, as Fre´de´ric Vergnes, president of Corre`ze's tobacconist union, said that "[b]y attacking speed cameras, we want to have an impact on the state's tax revenues." Tobacconists in Bordeaux also covered cameras along the city's ring road with plastic bags with signs saying "Getting rid of my tobacconists will not reduce smoking. No to plain packaging, no to €10 packs," according to Joaquim Rompante, president of the tobacconist union in the Gironde region. Rompante said PP will be "the death of tobacconists." The 26,000 tobacconists in France employ 100,000 people, and PP will create unemployment, he said (France 24 7/20).