France will force car ads to place messages encouraging cycling, walking

Published Dec. 30, 2021 6:45 p.m. ET

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Parisians ride bicycles in the traffic jam, in Paris, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

A new law in France will force car companies to place messages in their ads that encourage people to consider greener methods of transportation.

Much like the "Please enjoy responsibly" disclaimers on ads for alcoholic beverages, or health warnings on cigarette packaging, car commercials will be required to display messages that encourage walking, cycling, carpooling or public transit.

These messages include "For short trips, choose to walk or cycle," "Think about carpooling," and "Take public transit daily."

"Decarbonizing transportation is not only switching to electric vehicles. It's also using, when possible, public transit or bicycles," tweeted Barbara Pompili, France's Minister for Ecological Transition.

The new regulations were passed on Tuesday and take effect on March 1. They will apply to ads on TV, in movie theatres, on billboards, in print, online and over radio.

The messages must be written in an "easily identifiable and distinct" space on screen, followed by the hashtag #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer, which translates to "Move without pollution." For radio ads, the messages must be spoken immediately after the advertisement.

Failure to do so will result in a fine up to €50,000, equivalent to $72,140.

The French government has recently been cracking down on automobile emissions. Private cars account for 15 per cent of France's greenhouse gas emissions and 50 per cent of the emissions related to transportation in the country.

Last year, France passed a weight tax on cars targeting gas-guzzling SUVs. Cars weighing more than 1,800 kilograms or 4,000 pounds would be taxed at a rate of 10 euros per kilogram.

France also passed sweeping new climate regulations last summer that would ban certain cars from dense city centres, require automobile manufacturers to disclose the climate impact of their products in their ads and eventually phase out the sale of diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2040.

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