January 20, 2011 - French lawmakers have decided that Jean-Paul Sartre, Coco Chanel, and other long-dead icons can have their cigarettes back. Smoldering cigarettes and pipes had been airbrushed out of old photos and vintage movie posters out of fear of breaking a 1991 law that banned the "direct or indirect" promotion of smoking. Fear of breaking the so-called Evin law, which bans the "direct or indirect" promotion of tobacco products, had led authorities to remove smouldering Gauloises from pictures of a string of famous French figures in recent years.
On Wednesday, January 19th French MPs (Members of Parliament) approved a bill that excludes "cultural heritage" from the antismoking rules. "The falsification of history, the censorship of works of the mind, the denial of reality must remain the heinous marks of totalitarian regimes," said the bill. Didier Malthus, the Socialist MP who drafted the bill, said that those who had interpreted the law in such an "extensive way" had "put cultural works into question". The bill must now go before parliament that would exclude cultural heritage from the anti-smoking law..
The first time the law had sparked outcry was over a 1996 stamp featuring a well-known photo of André Malraux, the award-winning author and culture minister of Charles de Gaulle's cabinet, sans his trademark cigarette. The rule reached new heights of absurdity in 2009 when the trademark pipe of the late Jacques Tati, one of France's most enduring comic characters, was replaced with a yellow windmill in a poster campaign – a move which one cinema expert said would have made him "die laughing".
All tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television was banned within the European Union since 1991 under the Television Without Frontiers Directive. It was extended in July 2005 to cover other forms of media such as the internet, print media, radio, and sports event like F1. In 2007, France joined other European countries in banning smoking in public places.
References: French vote to allow their bygone heroes to smoke by Henry Samuel, The Telegraph 1/19/2011; French MPs to change anti-smoking law after Jacques Tati pipe row by RFI, www.english.rfi.fr, 1/19/2011.
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