Is Driving the New Smoking?

Paris, France

A new French law requiring car advertisements to include messages encouraging people to use other modes of transport has sparked speculation about whether Australia might be ready for a similar move.

The French legislation, passed in December, will require all advertising by car manufacturers to include one of three messages: “Consider carpooling”, “For short trips, opt for walking or cycling” or “Use public transportation for everyday trips”. The hashtag #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer, which translates to “move to pollute less”, must also appear at the end of each ad.

They must appear in all ads appearing on television, radio, cinemas, in print and online from March, with fines of up to $56,000 for advertisers who fail to comply.

The regulations mimic existing requirements for tobacco products, alcohol and gambling in a number of countries.

It is part of France’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and automotive companies such as Volkswagen, SEAT and Volvo have indicated they would comply.

Some advertising industry members have questioned whether simply including the messages would be effective in persuading people to swap car journeys for another form of transport.

However, the Director – National Advocacy of Australian cycling lobby group We Ride says there is an opportunity to ask whether now might be a good time for a similar move in this country.

Stephen Hodge said in particular it would be interesting to see how Australian motorist lobby groups would perceive requirements in this country for car advertising to promote active transport.

“The bike lobby will not be successful in anything like this if the car groups are against it,” he said.

“With more than eight million members across the country, their voice is hugely powerful.

“But some of the organisations are very supportive, indeed even leading the agenda at times, for promotion of active travel.”

The new French law also foreshadows a ban on advertising for the most polluting vehicles. The ban will come into force from 2028 and will cover vehicles that emit more than 123 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre. Given emission levels for current vehicles, that would include many popular SUVs.

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