NC governor decries French, Irish cigarette plans
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's governor argues in letters to the French and Irish governments that farmers and manufacturers in the top tobacco-producing state would be hurt by proposals in those countries to package cigarettes in blank containers.
In a letter dated Oct. 6 to French officials, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said the plain packaging proposal may detract from more effective ways of curbing cigarette use.
"There is little evidence that plain packaging measures are anything more than symbolism," he says in the letter to Gerard Araud, France's ambassador to the U.S.
"Plain packaging laws are a direct assault on intellectual property and trademarks," he adds.
He wrote a similar letter to Irish officials. In both letters, he compares North Carolina's tobacco industry to Ireland and France's famed vineyards, breweries and distilleries.
"Imagine if the United States required Guinness to be stripped of its universally recognized brand and be marketed solely as 'beer' or Jameson to be labeled simply as 'whiskey' and Baileys as 'liqueur,'" he wrote in the Sept. 10 letter to Ireland's ambassador to the U.S., Anne Anderson.
The French bill requiring neutral cigarette packs by 2016 is slated for debate in French Parliament next year. The government's plan includes a measure that would force tobacco companies to sell packs of cigarettes with the same shape, size, color and typeset. The brand will still be mentioned but on a small place on the packaging.
"There is no future for tobacco in France," French Health minister Marisol Touraine said in an interview published Wednesday in the daily newspaper Le Parisien.
Touraine argued that making the packaging less attractive would help discourage young people from starting to smoke. Around 30 percent of French people are smokers, and the habit causes 73,000 deaths a year in France, according to government statistics.
Ireland is considering a similar law to ban logos and colors on cigarette packaging.
Australia became the first country in the world to mandate plain cigarette packs with no brand logo or colors permitted with a law that went into effect in 2012. Instead, the packs are solid brown and covered in large graphic warnings.
The French ambassador in Washington didn't immediately respond to a request for comment left with his press office. The main phone number at the Irish Embassy in Washington rang unanswered.
McCrory's communications staff didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment from the governor.
Tobacco is big business in North Carolina, where farmers grew more than 380 million pounds of tobacco in 2012 to give the state top ranking, according to statistics for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.