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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

France is the largest country in Western Europe. It leads the European Union in food exports and is the world's largest maker of wine. The French government plays a large roll in directing economic activity. "Nuclear power, which supplies 80 percent of France's electricity, enjoys widespread support, in part because there is virtually no domestic oil. Government policies provide for a 35-hour workweek and five weeks of paid vacation annually." [1]

Tobacco industry involvement in France

"Loi Evan": France's tobacco ad restrictions

A 1991 public relations plan (created by the PR company Ruder Finn for Philip Morris France) discusses how the company can work around a "difficult national situation," specifically a French law called "loi Evin," which prohibits "all propaganda or publicity, direct or indirect, in favor of tobacco or tobacco products as well as their free distribution." The law also precluded sponsorship activities.

The report's author discusses how "the illness and death arguments used in anti-smoking campaigns [in the U.S.] have little effect on smokers and in particular young people [in France]," and how in France "the stressed non-smoker is still considered a fanatical trouble-maker when strongly defending his right to fresh air."

The Plan discusses how to influence legislators and opinion leaders in France, and states (on Page 25) that "defense of issues surrounding tobacco needs to be done in a third party context -- non-tobacco linked experts [and] sources need to speak on behalf of tobacco interests." It also urges Philip Morris to "take the initiative in education programmes informing young people about the risks of smoking," reaffirming that PM's application of youth anti-smoking programs in France and elsewhere is done out of concern for public relations and the effects of these activities on legislators rather than out of concern for public health.

Ruder-Finn proposed to help PM "establish a discrete, credible and effective voice and an institutionalised lobby ... to defend its interests without being visible as Philip Morris," to "position Philip Morris as a concerned French citizen and a resource for factual information on both sides of the debate, and to "... highlight [PM's]... efforts to protect the environment; concern for health, youth and the quality of life in general."

The paper comments on the smoking situation in France, and lays out PM's "Overall objectives" in France:

3.1 Overall Objectives

The general principals that should underlay all initiatives would include the following:

--shifting political and media attitudes to more accurately reflect the social practice concerning smoking in France

--positioning Philip Morris as a concerned French citizen and a resource for factual information on both sides of the debate (for use by other institutions), highlighting its scientific activities and efforts to protect the environment; concern for health, youth and the quality of life in general.

--establishing a capacity for management of and participation in the on-going debate in France on the question of smoking.

--establishing a discrete, credible and effective voice and an institutionalised lobby (or more than one over time) to defend its interests without being visible as Philip Morris

--ensuring a proactive influence on legislative, regulatory and grass roots initiatives as they develop in order to extend the time frame and environmental space for smokers in France

--avoiding the debate and specific focus on smoker interest versus the general public. This debate has had a "boomerang effect" in France, rather than increasing sensitivity, the smokers versus non question tends to annoy people. In sum, avoid direct confrontation on the issue and place the debate in the context of broader discussions.

--mitigating against the sense of isolation of smoking

--avoiding dogmatism and capitalising on the French sense of individualism and liberty without being obvious ...

--Allowing Philip Morris to exist outside the context of the smoking debate.

A 1988 Philip Morris matrix/chart lists "to-do" type tasks for the company to address secondhand smoke issues in Europe. Tasks listed include "Restore Smoker Confidence," "Reverse Health Perception," "Establish/Maintain/Exploit Smoker Clubs," "Resist Smoking Restriction" and others. Check boxes are provided for the countries of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Saudi, Kuwait GCC [Gulf Council Countries], Turkey, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.[3]

More industry invovlement with Loi Evan

In 1993, French legislators considered tightening the Loi Evin to prohibit virtually all forms of tobacco advertising, with only very limited exceptions. The French also proposed removing an exception that had permitted tobacco companies to continue to sponsor sporting events in France, even after the Loi Evin had initially been enacted.

This proposal set off alarm at Philip Morris. PM feared that if they allowed this measure to pass in France, the same type of restrictions would quickly spread to other European countries.

Unsurprisingly, PM fought the measure. A 1992 report describes how Philip Morris France (PM) planned to manipulate the French government to preserve tobacco company sponsorship of sporting events.

PM's strategy was multi-pronged: The company planned to use the deteriorating state of France's inner-cities (called "suburbs") to its advantage by offering the government what was, in essence, a bribe. PM planned to offer to build sporting facilities and purchase equipment for the poorer sections of French cities in exchange for the government inserting an exception into the new law that would continue to permit tobacco companies to sponsor sporting events:

"[PM will] offer sponsorship activities by tobacco companies [to the French government] as one solution for the severe urban problems."

Another tactic was to threaten French legislators by upsetting their "political equilibrium." PM says,

"[should Government officials move to restrict tobacco sponsorship of events] mobilization can take place and cause problems to the political equilibrium."

PM also proposed "using the problems of the inner-cities as a political cover" for politicians to insert an amendment favoring tobacco companies into a bill about the law.

Research by PM's Corporate Affairs department showed that manipulating French legislation through an Omnibus Bill was the way to go. PM preferred working through an Omnibus bill because such bills are typically introduced very late in the French legislative session, are usually rushed through parliament and laden with many different subjects, making discussion of individual measure in the bill very difficult. Omnibus bills thus avoid scrutiny by consumer groups and health authorities. In a section entitled "How to amend the Loi Evin," PM says,

"The easiest way to amend the Loi Evin to allow the sponsorship of motor vehicle competitions by the tobacco industry is to obtain the inclusion of an article dealing with this question in an Omnibus Bill. ... Omnibus bills have two advantages:

  • They are generally a long list of very different articles amending very different laws, and are therefore difficult to discuss.
  • They are generally voted during the last two days of parliamentary sessions, and are therefore not scrutinized by the press and public interest groups."

PM further says,

"[Omnibus bills] provide the Government with an opportunity to adjust laws voted previously without having to re-open a political debate. They provide an opportunity to placate special-interest groups without having to do it openly, or even to reverse the Government's previous position at the cost of minimal political exposure..."

The Plan also indicates PM cultivated strong allies within the French government, and implies the companies could control these public servants to their advantage, saying "It will ... be necessary to mobilize MP's and Senators" to propose such an amendment.

In summary, this document shows how Philip Morris worked to alter laws in ways designed to make the company's involvement difficult to detect, and purposely tried to keep health authorities and consumer groups from discovering and discussing what the company is doing in that regard.[4]

R.J. Reynolds and Loi Evan

A 1991-1992-era marketing document shows RJR's efforts to get around France's tobacco ad ban and continue to widely advertise its products.

To introduce a new brand of cigarette, RJR proposed identifying "existing brand names with strong appeal among key target group (for example Zippo or Levi's) to obtain license [of the brand names] for cigarettes. This new cigarette brand will benefit of the existing imagery behind this trademark and from the advertising of the non-tobacco products bearing this trademark. Worth noting, however, is that such a strategy can be considered as very provocative ..."

The tobacco industry's strategy of introducing a non-tobacco product (bearing the brand name of a cigarette to be introduced later) can also been seen in the Sourcwatch article The Wine Cooler Cigarette, which reveals that Philip Morris applied the same strategy in Singapore circa 1986, when that country had banned cigarette ads. PM introduced "Alpine" wine cooler prior to introducing "Alpine" brand cigarettes in order to achieve name recognition for the cigarette in the face of an advertising ban.

RJR's tactics for getting name recognition for WINSTON and CAMEL brand cigarettes in face of the French ad ban included creating WINSTON and CAMEL clothing lines to be marketed by employing the imagery of "every young adult's dream" (portrayal of a calm, in-control Winston man who hits the road, engages in "travel and discovery," travels to "mythical places" and meets "legendary characters.") RJR planned to introduce Winston and Camel footwear, clothing, watches, luggage and other "image-rich 'consumer desirables'" in order to appeal the image-and-quality-conscious younger adult market. In one particularly ironic twist, page 61 of RJR's marketing plan states, "Explore potential opportunities offered by the 'Life Savers' trademark."

RJR also noted that the new ad restrictions made it harder to attract effective sales employees. As a result, part of their strategy was to "improve [the employment] recruitment process by the development of an attractive corporate image to be systematically utilized in recruitment ads." Such feel-good "social-responsibility" campaigns by tobacco companies not only help the industry sway political and public opinion, but also help them continue to recruit effective sales people and boost employee morale.

The document also shows RJR planned to extend this same strategy to other areas of the world, including Europe and Asia.[5]

Related Sourcewatch resources

External resources

Suggested search term: <tdo>search_term=France strategy confidential</tdo>


  1. France, National Geographic, accessed November 2007.
  2. Ruder, Ruder & Finn Preliminary Proposal for a Corporate Affairs Programme Philip Morris France Report/proposal. 62 pp. February, 1991. Bates No. 2500120377/0438
  3. Philip Morris Overall Plan Matrix Chart/graph. August 9, 1988. Bates No. 2501046475
  4. Philip Morris France France: Proposed Action Plan to Amend the tobacco Sponsorship Ban Report. 25 pp. June 3, 1992 Bates No. 2501360173/0197
  5. RJR France, Communication Strategy 1992-1996 SP Estimated date, 1994. 114 pp. No Bates No. Document available in PDF format. Working on getting document posted on the Web.