French tobacconists protest at anti-smoking law
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Tobacconists took to the streets of French cities on Tuesday to protest against the introduction of plain packaging on cigarettes packets. The controversial measure, which is part of the government's new health bill, will be discussed in the Senate on 14 September.
The planned introduction of plain cigarette packaging was initially dropped by the Senate on 22 July, when it adopted an EU directive aimed at increasing the size of health warnings.
Under the new law health warnings along with graphic pictures should cover up to 65 per cent of cigarette packets, instead of 40 per cent under the current legislation.
But when Health Minister Marisol Touraine announced the reintroduction of plain packaging, with no logo or brand name, the decision sparked outrage in some quarters.
In over 80 cities throughout France, hundreds of tobacconists gathered to oppose the new law on Tuesday, a week ahead of its examination by the Senate.
In Paris over four tonnes of carrots were dumped near the finance ministry, in reference to the orange symbols above at the entrance of French tobacco shops.
Banners read "Getting read of tobacconists won't reduce smoking."
"If we disappear tomorrow, smokers will turn to foreign countries or parallel markets," said Bernard Gasq, the president of the tobacconist's union in Paris.
In the southern towns of Albi, Montauban and Auch, tobacconists camped in front of administrative offices and in the north-eastern region of Alsace protesters covered up over 80 town entrance signs.
The new anti-tobacco measures aim at tackling the high rates of teenage smokers in France, as well as reducing the amount of tobacco-related diseases, which authorities say account for over 70,000 deaths each year.