|Owner||Imperial Tobacco, Reemtsma (Germany only)|
|Tagline||"Liberté toujours" ("Freedom forever")|
Gauloises (pronounced [?o.lwaz], "Gaulish" [feminine plural] in French; cigarette is a feminine noun in French), is a brand of cigarette of Polish manufacture. It is produced by the company Imperial Tobacco following its acquisition of Altadis in January 2008 in most countries, but produced and sold by Reemtsma in Germany. Until 2017 the cigarette was manufactured at a plant in Riom, Puy-de-Dôme, in France.
Gauloises was launched in 1910. Traditional Gauloises were short, wide, unfiltered and made with dark tobaccos from Syria and Turkey which produced a strong and distinctive aroma. The brand is most famous for its cigarettes' strength, especially in its original unfiltered version. Forty years later, filtered Gauloises cigarettes debuted. In 1984, the Gauloises brand was expanded to include a light, American-type tobacco with a filter. The original non-filter, Gauloises Caporal, have been discontinued and replaced with Gauloises Brunes, which are also filterless but less strong. Gauloises Brunes have low tar and nicotine levels, because of European tobacco laws, but the tobacco is still dark and strong-tasting. As of 2018, the Gauloises cigarettes are produced in Poland after the last manufacturing plant in Riom, Puy-de-Dôme closed its doors in the end of 2017.
Between the World Wars the smoking of Gauloises 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 was "Liberté toujours" ("Freedom forever"). In 1939-1940 some packets of cigarettes were given a distinctive "troop brand".
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). In popular music, for example French pianist and composer Maurice Ravel, American singer Jim Morrison and British music icon John Lennon.
American artist Robert Motherwell used Gauloises packets and cartons in many collages, including an extensive series with the packets surrounded by bright red acrylic paint, often with incised lines in the painted areas. In the introduction to his 2015 book Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant, gallery owner Bernard Jacobson says, "Motherwell smoked Lucky Strikes, but in his collage life he smokes Gauloises, around whose blue packets he now organises one composition after another, 'exotic to me precisely because in the normal course of things I don't smoke French cigarettes'." And by incorporating Gauloises packets he makes deft and condensed allusion to "French blue": to the Mediterranean and the palette of Matisse ... to the smoke coiling up in a Cubist assemblage."
Henri Charrière, French author and convict, repeatedly references the smoking of Gauloises in his autobiography Papillon. This, together with the romantic associations of France, made Gauloises a popular brand among some writers and artists: in practically every story and novel written by Julio Cortázar set in Paris, the protagonists smoke Gauloises. John Lennon was a noted smoker of Gauloises Bleues. Frank O'Hara in his poem "The Day Lady Died" writes of going to "the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre" in New York and casually asking "for a carton of Gauloises." In John le Carré's 1979 novel Smiley's People a key plot point involves the concealment of a microfilm in a packet of Gauloises, which are Vladimir's favourite. Smoking Gauloises is also mentioned in the teen television series Gossip Girl. D/Sgt Mort Cooperman smokes Gauloises in several mystery novels by Richard "Kinky" Friedman.
Smoking Gauloises was also promoted as a contribution to the national good: a portion 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).
John Frusciante, former guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, smoked Gauloises, as noted in the book Scar Tissue by friend and bandmate Anthony Kiedis. During his time at Marlborough College in the early 1960s English singer-songwriter Nick Drake would enjoy smoking Disque Blue cigarettes with his friend Jeremy Mason, in the High Street of the town.
In July 2016, the French government considered a ban on both the Gauloises and Gitanes cigarette brands because they were deemed "too stylish and cool". The ban would also apply to brands including Marlboro Gold, Vogue, Lucky Strike and Fortuna. It is the result of a new public health law based on a European directive that says tobacco products "must not include any element that contributes to the promotion of tobacco or give an erroneous impression of certain characteristics". Four major tobacco companies have written to the government seeking clarification on the potential law, calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the details of the plan. In the letter they accuse French health minister Marisol Touraine of an "arbitrary and disproportionate" application of EU directives.
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.
On 30 October 2007 the Criminal Chamber of the French Supreme Court ruled against SEITA, accusing it of having signed a partnership agreement with the organisers of the 2000-2002 Francofolies Festivals for the use of visual brand elements of Gauloises Blondes.
Gauloises was the primary sponsor of the Equipe Ligier Formula One team in 1996, replacing sister brand Gitanes, as well as its successor Prost Grand Prix from 1997 until 2000. Gauloises also sponsored the Kronos-run Citroën cars in the World Rally Championship during the 2006 World Rally Championship.
Gauloises was the primary sponsor of the factory Yamaha team in 2004 and 2005, as well as the satellite Tech 3 team from 2001 until 2004 when they got sponsored by Fortuna in the MotoGP class. Gauloises was a major sponsor for teams in the Dakar Rally. Gauloises also sponsored various grand prix races on the MotoGP calendar, such as the Dutch TT, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and the Brno Circuit.
Gauloises is mainly sold in France, but also was or still is sold in Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Madagascar, Syria, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Mexico, South Africa and Argentina.
Gauloises is no longer available in the United Kingdom.