|Produced by||Imperial Tobacco|
Gauloises cigarettes first appeared in 1910. The brand is most famous for its cigarettes' strength, especially in its original unfiltered version. Forty years later, filtered Gauloises cigarettes debuted. In 1984, the Gauloises brand was expanded to included a light American-type tobacco with a filter, known as Gauloises Blondes. Gauloises cigarettes with lower tar are also available and are sold in red, in golden/white and in green packets. The traditional, strong filterless Gauloises cigarettes remain commercially available as Gauloises Caporal.
Between the World Wars the smoking of Gauloises in France was considered patriotic and an affiliation with French "heartland" values. The brand was associated with the cigarette-smoking poilu (a slang term for the French infantryman in the trenches) and the resistance fighters during the Vichy Regime. Their slogan was "Liberté toujours" (Freedom forever). George Orwell tells of how he "squandered two francs fifty on a packet of Gaulois Bleu" in his 1933 book Down and Out in Paris and London..
The brand was also linked to high-status and inspirational figures representing the worlds of art (e.g. Pablo Picasso) and the intellectual elite (e.g. Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Jean Baudrillard) and in popular music, for example American singer Jim Morrison.
American artist Robert Motherwell used Gauloises packets and cartons in many collages, including an extensive series with the packets surrounded by bright red acrylic paint, often with incised lines in the painted areas. Motherwell himself did not smoke the brand, but got the packets and cartons from a neighbor who did.
Henri Charrière, French author and convict, repeatedly references the smoking of Gauloises in his autobiography Papillon. George Orwell also mentions that he smokes the brand in Down and Out in Paris and London. This, together with the romantic associations of France, made Gauloises a popular brand among some writers and artists: in practically every story and novel written by Julio Cortázar set in Paris, the protagonists smoke Gauloises. They appear in the Roman Polanski film The Tenant and in John le Carré's book Smiley's People. John Lennon was a noted smoker of Gauloises Bleues. Frank O'Hara in his poem "The Day Lady Died" writes of going to "the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre" in New York and casually asking "for a carton of Gauloises." Smoking Gauloises is also mentioned in the teen series Gossip Girl. Fictional Detective Sergeant Mort Cooperman smokes Gauloises in several mystery novels by Richard "Kinky" Friedman.
Smoking Gauloises was also promoted as a contribution to the national good: a portion of the profits from their sale was paid to the Régie Française des Tabacs, a semi-governmental corporation charged with controlling the use of tobacco, especially by minors, and directing its profits towards socially beneficial causes. The designers of the traditional Gauloise packet reinforced national identity by selecting a peculiarly French shade of blue (like the blues later used in the work of French artist Yves Klein).
The brand appears in Roman Polanski's 1976 psychological thriller The Tenant. and also in the 2006 Algerian film Days of Glory. Gauloises are also the cigarettes smoked by Bruce Willis the 1988 film Die Hard.
Gauloises was the title sponsor of the Ligier Formula One team in 1996, replacing sister brand Gitanes, as well as its successor Prost from 1997 until 2000. Gauloises were also the sponsor of the factory Yamaha team in MotoGP from 2003 until 2005, and of the Kronos-run Citroen cars in the World Rally Championship during 2006.
The cigarette was manufactured by SEITA but 1999 proved to be a landmark year. The legal difficulties crystallised when a French health insurance fund filed a 51.33 million franc lawsuit against four cigarette companies, including Seita, to cover the estimated and continuing costs of treating the illnesses linked to cigarette smoking. This was followed by an action filed by the family of a deceased heavy smoker and the French state health insurer, Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie, claiming compensation for the cost of the deceased's medical treatment and for producing a dangerous and addictive product. Consequently, brand management was assigned to Altadis, with joint French and Spanish ownership, and this company continued manufacture and international distribution until its acquisition by Imperial Tobacco.
On 30 October 2007 the Criminal Chamber of the French Supreme Court ruled against SEITA, accusing it of having signed a partnership agreement with the organisers of the 2000–2002 Francofolies Festivals for the use of visual brand elements of Gauloises Blondes.
- Down and out in Paris and London - Chapter V[dead link] - George-Orwell.org
- "France fumes over Gauloises move", CNN, 1 September 2005
- Horrocks, Chris. Introducing Baudrillard: Icon Books, 1996.
- Greenwich Killing Time, et al.
- Le Locataire — Les Gauloises bleues - YouTube
- 'Anybody Got a Match?': The 8 Best Smokers on Film - Movie Line
- Arrêt de la Chambre Criminelle de la Cour de Cassation : Audience publique du 30 octobre 2007
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