A New, Wacky Law Requires Car Commercials to Tell People Not to Buy a Car

It’s nothing new for governments to require that a product be clear about its potential for harming the customer. We see this with alcohol and tobacco. While we do this in the States, European governments tend to require much more of these types of restrictions. Well, Now France is trying to require the automotive industry to do something similar. This new French law would require automakers to promote greener transportation alternatives on car commercials. 

Cars fill the SR2 freeway on April 25, 2013, in Los Angeles, California
Cars fill the SR2 freeway on April 25, 2013, in Los Angeles, California | David McNew/Getty Images

French car commercials will have to tell people its better to not buy a car

According to The Drive, after years of lobbying by French environmental groups, this odd law will take effect on March 1st of this year. This new law requires any car commercial or advertisement to make three statements throughout the ad. Roughly translated, these are “For short journeys, walk or cycle,” as well as “think about carpooling” and “Take public transport daily.”

Although we tend to think of commercials as the main form of advertising, this law requires that any automotive advertisement – whether print, radio, online, or television – must have all three suggestions trying to make customers reconsider buying a car. 

Much like pharmaceutical commercials where they list the possible side effects, the messages must be written clearly or said aloud, depending on the media type. As noted by The Drive, there is even a hashtag, #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer, that must be displayed in certain contexts, which translates to “Move without pollution.” Fines for non-compliance can reach €50,000. 

France really doesn’t want people to buy a car

Well, that isn’t totally true. This mandate comes on the heels of the promise France made, along with many other countries, to end the sale of new cars using fossil fuels by the year 2040. Even more progressive cities like Paris have already banned the use of older, less fuel-efficient vehicles from driving in the city center.

While switching to electric vehicles is the focus of many people’s environmental efforts, the Minister for the Ecological Transition of France, Barbara Pompili, is thinking about a diversified approach that she believes will be more beneficial. 

“Decarbonizing transport is not just switching to electric vehicles. It also means using, when possible, public transport or cycling,” Pompili tweeted on Wednesday. Researchers are starting to learn that it isn’t just greenhouse gases that are the problem. It turns out that our brakes and tires are also spewing out tons of microplastics and other pollutants that are getting into the soil and eventually our streams, rivers, lakes, and even water table. 

How will this affect French drivers?

Honestly, probably not all that much. Hell, have you ever seen a pack of cigarettes over there? They are covered with horrendous photos of people suffering from various tobacco-related illnesses, and French people still smoke like a stack. So, will this stop people from buying new cars in France? Probably not. But maybe it will give people enough to consider taking their bike or the train instead of driving the car. I reckon that can only stand to help the climate situation. Either way, the law is a bit funny. 

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