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France : rolling round the curbs
  1. Comité français d'éducation pour la santé, Vanves cedex, France karina.oddoux{at}
  2. Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer
  3. Paris, France
    1. Comité français d'éducation pour la santé, Vanves cedex, France karina.oddoux{at}
    2. Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer
    3. Paris, France

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      The French Tobacco Act (the “loi Evin”) has led to the price of manufactured cigarettes doubling since 1992, and to sales decreasing 14.5% from 1991 to 1997. But during the same period, sales of roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) have doubled, because of their lower level of taxation. This phenomenon mainly concerns young people: almost 24% of 12 to 24 year olds say they smoke roll ups, against 17.7% for the overall population aged 12 to 75. These facts may explain why RYO papers have recently developed strong efforts to gain new customers.

      Since the total ad ban came into force in 1993, traditional ways of advertising tobacco products have disappeared, including most indirect ads, the latter mainly disappearing as a result of 37 punitive sentences handed out over the last 10 years (details of French case law can be found at

      Conversely, RYO cigarette papers, which are not covered by the law, have become more and more visible. In 1998, OCB (Odet Cascadec Bolloré), recently sold by the French company Bolloré Technologies to the US Republic Technologies, initiated a large media campaign targeting teenagers, using outdoor and printed ads mainly in magazines. On its web site (, OCB uses images of famous actors (Samy Naceri, star of Taxi), singers (Zazie, especially popular with young girls), and models (Pauline) as their ambassadors. The brand uses sexy, glamorous, and fashionable imagery, along with values such as humour, impertinence, multicultural openness, provocation, refusing conventional values, breaking the law, and sharing the joyful moments in life.

      OCB roll-your-own cigarette papers advertise with Samy Naceri, star of “Taxi”, with the slogan “OCB et Samy: ça roule!!!”, making play of the verb “rouler”—to roll— in an expression that loosely translates as “things are going smoothly”.

      This OCB roll-your-own cigarette paper advertisement shows the singer Zasie, who is especially popular with young girls in France.

      In addition to these marketing strategies, the intention to target young people is confirmed by the media planning (magazines on movies and music), and by the proactive presence of the brand at a popular music festival at Vieilles-Charrures in Brittany, which is seen by young people as the “Breton Woodstock”. In addition, fearing the coming of stricter legislation, the “OCB Urban Wear Designed by you” competition was launched towards the end of last year, also using the same sort of communications. OCB's competitor RIZLA +, while using less provocative ads, is also using a similar media campaign strategy.

      It is striking how the RYO papers industry seems to follow the strategy of the cigarette manufacturers. These campaigns keep on showing positive images of smokers who are “cool”, “hip” and “glamorous”, and such messages unfortunately have a strong impact in a country where advertisements for manufactured cigarettes have been absent from the media for almost a decade.


      • All articles written by David Simpson unless otherwise attributed. Ideas and items for News Analysis should be sent to David Simpson at the address given on the inside front cover.