SEITA (Gitanes & Gauloises)

Tobacco was monopolised in France as early as 1674. In 1786 the control of the tobacco business came under the control of the Ministry of Finance and the first cigarette brand names began to appear in 1876. These included Hongroises, which was transformed into Gauloises in 1925. The Vizir brand eventually became Gitanes. In 1926 the state established the Service Exploitation Industrielles des Tabacs (SEIT) and in 1959 this was renamed the Societe d'Exploitation Industrielle des Tabacs et Allumettes.In July 1984 the French Government made SEITA an independent company but retained all the shares and it was not until the end of 1994 that it was announced that the group would be privatised. The business was floated on the Paris Bourse in February 1995. The French government retained an interest but gave up complete control.SEITA was introduced to motor racing in the early 1970s by driver Jean-Louis Lafosse in the European 2-litre sportscar championship. The company gained international prominence as Ligier's primary sponsor from 1976 onwards with the Gitanes brand, although at the end of 1995 the company decided to concentrate on its Gauloises Blondes brand.When Alain Prost took over the team at the start of 1997 SEITA continued its support for the team, now known as Prost Grand Prix.SEITA was also involved in French national racing until tobacco sponsorship was banned. In 1991 however SEITA and Elf joined forces to create the "La Filiere" scheme to promote young French drivers. Of the first six drivers Olivier Panis, Emanuel Collard and Richie Hearn all went on to international success. The scheme has also helped rising stars Stephane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny.In 1999 SEITA agreed to sponsor Prost's junior team in Formula 3000 - Alain having purchased the Apomatox team. The team was named Gauloises Junior Team.In October 1999 SEITA merged with the Spanish national tobacco company Tabacalera to form a new company called Altadis, to enable the European tobacco firms to compete with industry giants Philip Morris, Japan Tobacco and British American Tobacco.At the end of 2000 the company announced that it was quitting Formula 1. It has remained active in the sport, notably on the Paris-Dakar Rally.