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Gauloises is a brand of cigarette of French manufacture. It is produced by the company Imperial Tobacco following their acquisition of Altadis in January 2008.
Traditional Gauloises cigarettes were originally short, wide, unfiltered and made with dark tobaccos from Syria and Turkey which gave off a strong and distinctive smell.
Gauloises cigarettes first appeared in 1910. The brand is most famous for its cigarettes' strength, especially in its original unfiltered version and 40 years later filtered Gauloises cigarettes appeared. In 1984 the brand was relaunched to an American type blend of light tobacco and renamed Gauloises Blondes. Lower tar versions of Gauloises cigarettes are also available, sold in red and golden/white packets.
Between the World Wars the smoking of Gauloises cigarettes 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 is "Liberté toujours" (Freedom forever). 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 music (Jim Morrison). 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: Ian Fleming's hero, James Bond, smoked Gauloises (but Bond's preference remained for his custom-ordered cigarettes from Morland's Special Blend of Grosvenor Street); in practically every story and novel written by Julio Cortázar set in Paris, the protagonists smoke Gauloises; they also 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. Smoking Gauloises is also mentioned in the teen series Gossip Girl. The helmet of French comic strip character Asterix was based on the cigarette logo. Fictional Detective Sergeant Mort Cooperman smokes Gauloises in several mystery novels by Richard "Kinky" Friedman.
Smoking Gauloises cigarettes was also promoted as a contribution to the national good: a proportion 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 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.