On 19 June, the French Minister of Health, Marisol Touraine, unveiled the broad measures planned for their new public health law. Measures regarding third-party payers, food labelling and tobacco control are already under consideration. This bill, which has been in the pipeline for more than a year, will be introduced in the Council of Ministers in September and discussed in the Parliament at the beginning of next year.
The third-party payer in GP consultation
One of the main announcements of Marisol Touraine was related to the French health system and the French Ministry of Health’s plans to introduce third-party payer measures in GP consultations from 2017. Currently, patients pay the full price of the consultation, and then get reimbursed by the social welfare system and their health insurance (if they have it). By 2017, patients will not pay up front, as is already the case in pharmacies. The social welfare system will instead directly reimburse GPs.
A colour code plan for food labelling
As part of the announcements, the French Minister of Health said that she was considering introducing a colour code plan for food labelling. Five colours (green, yellow, orange, fuschia and red) will indicate the food’s nutritional quality: if the tag is green, the food is healthy; if red, then the product is high in fats or sugars. In parallel, a petition launched by medical organisations and consumer groups in support of improved food labelling has already attracted more than 22,000 signatures. A similar colour-coding scheme is already in place in Britain.
Tobacco announcements delayed
Although the French media had announced that Marisol Touraine would unveil the new French anti-tobacco measures she did not explain them in detail. Last February, the French President asked Marisol Touraine to present a national programme before the summer to reduce smoking. A new plan is therefore expected to be presented in the next few weeks. In a recent interview, Touraine explained her desire to better regulate the use of electronic cigarettes in France.”[[Il faut réduire la publicité des cigarettes électroniques” http://www.europe1.fr/Sante/Il-faut-reduire-la-publicite-des-cigarettes-electroniques-dit-Touraine-2158209/]] However, there is no certainty that tobacco plain packaging will be part of the plan.
As EPHA President Peggy Maguire explained in her recently published open letter, beyond cancer, tobacco is a leading risk factor in a number of deaths and diseases in France today. Evidence suggests that deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD), and incidences of heart attack, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be prevented and or reduced by not smoking.
France will be setting a shining example for public health by being among the first countries in Europe to introduce plain packaging. This form of leadership in Europe is crucial in light of the recently adopted Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) which aims at strengthening European tobacco control policy[The new TPD, [Directive 2014/40/EC, entered into force on 19 May 2014.]]. Article 24.2 of the TPD recognises the right of Member States to maintain and introduce further requirements applicable to all products placed on its market in relation to standardisation of packaging of tobacco products, where it is justified on the grounds of public health, taking into account the high level of protection achieved through this Directive[[http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/lsa/140147.pdf]].