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Product type Cigarette
Produced by Imperial Tobacco
Introduced 1910; 106 years ago (1910)

Gauloises (pronounced: [ɡo.lwaz]), "Gaul woman" in French ("cigarette" is feminine in French), is a brand of cigarette of French manufacture. It is produced by the company Imperial Tobacco following their acquisition of Altadis in January 2008 in most countries, but produced and sold by Reemtsma in Germany.[citation needed]


Traditional Gauloises were short, wide, unfiltered and made with dark tobaccos from Syria and Turkey which produced a strong and distinctive aroma.

Brand history[edit]

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 include a light American-type tobacco with a filter. The original non-filter, Gauloises Caporal, have been discontinued and replaced with Gauloises Brunes, which are also filterless but less strong. Gauloises Brunes have low tar and nicotine levels, because of European tobacco laws, but the tobacco is still dark and strong tasting. They are also no longer made in France, but produced instead in Spain and the Netherlands.[citation needed]

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.[1] 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.[2] In 1939-40 some packets of cigarettes were given a disctictive "troop brand".[3]

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,[4] Albert Camus and Jean Baudrillard[5]) and in popular music, for example American singer Jim Morrison.[citation needed]

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.[6][7] In the introduction to his 2015 book Robert Motherwell, The Making of an American Giant, gallery owner Bernard Jacobson says, "Motherwell smoked Lucky Strikes, but in his collage life he smokes Gauloises, around whose blue packets he now organises one composition after another, 'exotic to me precisely because in the normal course of things I don't smoke French cigarettes'." And by incorporating Gauloises packets he makes deft and condensed allusion to "French blue": to the Mediterranean and the palette of Matisse . . . to the smoke coiling up in a Cubist assemblage."[8][9]

Henri Charrière, French author and convict, repeatedly references the smoking of Gauloises in his autobiography Papillon. 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. D/Sgt Mort Cooperman smokes Gauloises in several mystery novels by Richard "Kinky" Friedman.[10]

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).

John Frusciante, former guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, smoked Gauloises, as noted in the book Scar Tissue by friend and band-mate Anthony Kiedis.[citation needed]

The brand appears in Roman Polanski's 1976 psychological thriller The Tenant.[11] and also in the 2006 Algerian film Days of Glory. Gauloises are also the cigarettes smoked by Bruce Willis the 1988 film Die Hard. There is pack of Gauloises on Harry Palmer's bedside table in the 1965 spy film The Ipcress File, and they were that character's brand of choice in the original Len Deighton novels.[12]

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.

Legal problems[edit]

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 ($58 million) 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.[13]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Down and out in Paris and London – Chapter V -
  3. ^ "PAQUET DE CIGARETTES TROUPE , GAULOISES 1939 - 1940 - Le poilu". Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  4. ^ "France fumes over Gauloises move", CNN, 1 September 2005
  5. ^ Horrocks, Chris. Introducing Baudrillard: Icon Books, 1996.
  6. ^ "Robert Motherwell & Gauloises Caporal | BEACH". 22 December 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "Robert Motherwell. Gauloises Bleues (White). 1970". MoMA. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "Robert Motherwell: Making of an American Giant-artnet News". Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  9. ^ "Robert Motherwell | Gauloises with Scarlet No. 1 (1972)". Artsy. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Greenwich Killing Time, et al.
  11. ^ Le Locataire — Les Gauloises bleuesYouTube
  12. ^ 'Anybody Got a Match?': The 8 Best Smokers on Film – Movie Line
  13. ^ Arrêt de la Chambre Criminelle de la Cour de Cassation : Audience publique du 30 octobre 2007

External links[edit]