The Gauloise extinguished for good in France

1st September 2005, Comments 0 comments

LILLE, France, Aug 31 (AFP) - France bid farewell to one of its national symbols Wednesday as the last packet of Gauloises cigarettes left a factory in the northern city of Lille, bringing to an end nearly a century of smoking history.

LILLE, France, Aug 31 (AFP) - France bid farewell to one of its national symbols Wednesday as the last packet of Gauloises cigarettes left a factory in the northern city of Lille, bringing to an end nearly a century of smoking history.

For decades the staple of French artists and intellectuals -- not to mention millions of soldiers in two world wars -- the legendary brand has fallen foul of changing tastes, and the Franco-Spanish company Altadis is to concentrate production in Alicante, Spain.

The closure of the Lille site, which comes at the cost of more than 400 jobs, also brings to an end domestic production of the sister-brand Gitanes and means that France no longer makes the heavy-duty "dark" cigarettes favoured by generations of smokers.

Altadis -- which was formed in 1999 after the merger of the French Seita and Tabacalera of Spain -- also manufactures lighter "blonde" versions of Gauloises and Gitanes, production of which will remain in France.

"France and Spain are the two main markets for 'dark' tobacco. Both are declining, but France much faster than Spain. Last year consumption here fell by 28 percent. Restructuring was inevitable, and we decided to focus production in Spain," said Paris-based Altadis spokeswoman Aneta Lazarevic.

With their unmistakeable winged helmet trademark, Gauloises were launched in 1910 in a climate of patriotic fervour ahead of World War I. The brand had originally been called "Hongroises" -- Hungarians -- but the state tobacco company preferred a name that evoked France's original warlike inhabitants.

Made from tobacco grown in France, Turkey and Syria, Gauloises acquired a filter tip in the 1950s but the true afficionados -- including celebrities such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso and singer Serge Gainsbourg -- continued to prefer the raw version.

First appearing in shops in 1927, Gitanes followed the success of their elder partner. Like the Gauloises helmet, their gypsy dancer design became an advertising classic which instantly conjured a nostalgic image of France.

However both brands suffered badly in recent years from price hikes, an overall decline in cigarette consumption, as well as the growing preference for the sweeter Virginia and Burley tobaccos grown in the US, Brazil and other countries.

In 2004, of 55 billion cigarettes sold in France, only 6.2 billion were "dark." Gauloises had a 68 percent share of that market, and Gitanes 30.7 percent.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Gauloise, Gitane, Lille, cigarettes, dark tobacco

0 Comments To This Article