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French car ads will now need to have cigarette-style warning labels

Commercials will promote walking, cycling

Is driving the new smoking? The French government just passed a law that will force car ad to include a message to promote greener alternatives. Beginning March 1, 2022, all car ads and commercials, whether on TV, print, radio or online must mention one of three messages.

Labels promote alternatives

Carmakers can choose between, “pour les trajets courts, privilégiez la marche ou le vélo,” which tranlsates to “for short trips, choose walking or cycling.” Or there’s “pensez à covoiturer” so “think about carpooling.” Finally, there’s “au quotidien, prenez les transports en commun” or “on a daily basis, take public transport.”

The law says that on all print ads there must have the warning in a box covering at least 7 per cent of the ad. On all TV or movie spots, the messaging must remain on the screen long so that the viewer can read it, or hear it.

Additionally, all car ads must also carry the hashtag #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer, or “get around by polluting less.” The idea is not new. In fact, French environmental groups have been pushing for this legislation for many years, in an effort to reduce transport emissions. In 2017, France made a 2040 pledge to stop the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles. Private cars make up 5 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas output.

Carmakers not impressed

Not surprisingly, the car companies are not in love with the idea. According to The Local, Lionel Keogh, The CEO of Hyundai in France said that the labels stigmatizes drivers. “If I am doing a short journey and have to go along a main road, I will do so neither on foot nor by bicycle,” he said.

Who’s gonna tell him about bike paths?