The commercial court of Toulouse has ruled that electronic cigarettes are only to be sold by approved tobacco sellers. In addition, the court ruled that advertising bans placed on tobacco cigarettes are to apply to electronic cigarette packaging and promotions as well. This could bode poorly for the future of electronic cigarettes in all of France and maybe even across the European Union.
You can read a full story here.
Although many regulators around the world are pressing for smoking regulations to be applied to e-cigs — particularly advertising restrictions — this ruling came largely as a surprise because of the ruling on who can sell e-cigs. In France, tobacconists (expert tobacco sellers) have a monopoly on cigarette sales. This ruling ensures that the power to control the nicotine market stays in the hands of tobacconists.
If this ruling stands, it could demolish the rapidly expanding e-cig market and place a mountain of red tape between budding electronic cigarette sellers and the retail market. This will certainly slow development of the market as manufacturers shift gears and change direction.
Frances electronic cigarette market is expected to hit € 100 million (almost $140 million in US). Rulings like this will certainly hamper that growth. This alone is enough of a reason for people to raise a fuss about the ruling — even if they aren’t totally on board for the whole smokeless nicotine thing.
Much like many other rulings, announcements, proposals, and initiatives, the concern is that this may lead to other courts ruling in the same way. It becomes much easier to push a decision or ruling when you can point to someone else and say see, they did it first.
So far, much of the trends have been looking positive for electronic cigarettes throughout Europe. Certainly there are detractors, but there is also quite a lot of support. The Toulouse ruling is a bad one for the industry, but it may not be as clear an indication of a losing battle there as one might think.