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Audrey Tautou as Coco Chanel
Still from "Coco Before Chanel" (2009)Coco Before Chanel (2009)

Will smoking be banned from French films?

The uncaring smoker, so conventional to French cinema, may soon be a thing of the past as the country’s government propose an on-screen ban

From Audrey Tautou’s elegant portrayal of Coco Chanel – smoking as she stitches the sleeve of a tweed jacket – to a nude Adele, cig dangling from her lips, being painted by lover Emma in Blue is the Warmest Colour, smoking has always been a staple of French cinema.

Until now? During a parliamentary debate discussing plans to raise the price of tobacco, France’s socialist senator Nadine Grelet-Certenais accused French directors of advertising smoking in their films. “70 per cent of new French films have at least one scene of someone smoking,” she told parliament, “This more or less helps to make its use banal, even promote it, to children and adolescents.”

Grelet-Certenais’ concern is not new, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) last year calling for films featuring smoking to be given an adult rating, but her complaint has attracted the attention of the French health minister Agnès Buzyn, who has now promised to take action. “I do not understand the importance of smoking in French cinema,” the minister said, affirming that she will meet with the minister of culture to discuss “denormalising the image of tobacco in society.”

Although it’s not sure yet what action will be taken, the pair’s statements have been widely mocked online, with critics declaring the proposal to ban on-screen smoking ‘crazy’.

Art history website La Tribune de l’Art said on Twitter: “I expect taking drugs, exceeding the speed limit, crossing the road outside the marks and obviously killing anyone will soon be banned from films.”

While radio show Le Cinéma est mort joked: “Furthermore, the characters of French films will now have to eat five fruits and vegetables per day.”

Following July’s announcement that cigarette prices are set to rise over the next three years, it’s a tough time for smokers in France. That idyllic image of a handsome artist outside a Parisian cafe may soon come without its quintessential cloud of smoke. R.I.P. romance, but long live your lungs.