French tobacconists took to the streets this week, dumping carrots and covering police cams with trash bags in protest of standardized cigarette packs which are free of branded labels. French Minister Marisol Touraine pushed for the measure as part of a larger health bill. Although the French National Assembly approved the bill on April 3rd, the right-dominant Senate didn’t agree. Touraine said discussion on the bill would reopen in September.
The European country saw weeklong protests from its local tobacconists who felt threatened by the proposed measure. By introducing plain cigarette packets, the tobacconists argued, their profits would go down and their livelihoods would be threatened.
To make a statement, protesters in Gers, in Southern France, covered most of the district's traffic cameras in trash bags. This symbolized the loss of revenue tobacconists are feeling as they struggle to match competitive prices from Spain and Andorra.
President of the Gers tobacconists union said "By covering the speed cameras with trash bags, we've attacked a symbol, because, like cigarettes, speed cameras bring in a lot of money to the state.”
The odd protesting continued as four tons of carrots were dumped by angry protestors outside of headquarters of the ruling Socialist Party. “Carrot” is used to describe a red cylindrical sign that law requires French tobacconists to hang outside of their stores. The Socials Party responded to the protest by feeding the four tons of carrots to their 470 horse cavalry.
Although the French government collects around $15 billion in tax revenue from its tobacconists, it also spends $52 billion a year treating and campaigning against smoking. These numbers have led the government to try and oust smoking altogether.
While 26.3 percent of cigarettes used in France are bought via “parallel markets” such as foreign countries, the Senate rejected the bill because of the government's "inability to obtain from our [European] neighbors a more cooperative and less opportunistic tax policy."
While French tobacconists received the Senate ruling they were looking for, protests are promised to continue in September when the bill is scheduled to be reopened for discussion.