When one of a country's most brilliant artists has just died, is it appropriate for a government minister to point out that the heavy smoker succumbed to lung cancer? That was the question exercising France yesterday as the country mourned the loss to the disease of acclaimed director Patrice Chereau at the age of 68. His best-known films were La Reine Margot and Intimacy . Michele Delaunay, the minister for the elderly, sparked the debate after the announcement of Chereau's death due to what most French media described as a "long illness". Delaunay, in contrast, tweeted: "Chereau dead as a result of lung cancer: is it not time for cigarettes to be locked away in a cabinet for poison and sold only in pharmacies." The comment immediately triggered accusations on social media of the government health police exploiting a high-profile death for their own ends. The furore forced the minister to respond, which she did by pointing out that she was speaking out as a qualified doctor. "I can no longer bear people dying because of tobacco," she wrote. "It is immensely sad to see, once again, a talented man struck down by a legal weapon."