In a move that could impinge upon innovation and development in a market of over 1 million vapers; the French courts have announced plans to severely restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes. The plans would see vaping devices aligned with tobacco products and be made only eligible for distribution by tobacconists recognised by the state.
Not only will this restrict the public’s access to electronic cigarettes, it could prove to be an unwelcome precedent wherein vaping products are considered akin to traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products. At a time when electronic cigarettes are facing particular scrutiny and uncertainty, this bold move could prove to be hugely influential.
Unlike most states, under French law only tobacconists are allowed to retail tobacco products. This has granted them a powerful monopoly that they are not willing to lose as the electronic cigarette industry continues to grow. The tobacconists were concerned that as electronic cigarette sales continued to grow and the tobacco sales fall, so would the value of their monopoly. This move could consolidate the financial losses that have been predicted to be incurred.
An appeal has been lodged by an opposition to the new rulings, hoping that the decision will be overturned and normality will resume in France. Europe has previously benefitted from such an appeal after the MHRA proposal to regulate electronic cigarettes as medicinal products was overturned earlier this year. This appeal was led by vaping groups and brands such as Totally Wicked who launched a ‘Call to Action’ strategy bringing their concerns to the attention of the European Parliament and winning over members using facts and balanced arguments. This was backed by the influential Save E Cigs campaign led by European vaping enthusiasts – who could act again in the light of these recent revelations.
Berenberg Bank believes that should the appeal be unsuccessful it could have significant effect upon the vaping community, making it harder for French vapers to gain access to innovative, quality e cigs. Their senior global tobacco analyst, Erik Bloomquist, revealed:
“This (French ruling) could lead to greater regulation of the e-cigarette industry, and yes, in terms of manufacturing and distribution it could put a squeeze on the nascent e-cigarette industry. It could in fact be more favorable for the majors (large tobacco companies) because the French ruling suggests that the EU or some major countries are not concerned with damaging the nascent e-cig industry.”
There are suggestions that this move could see electronic cigarettes come closer to being included in the Tobacco Products Directive which would severely inhibit the marketing, production and distribution of vaping products. Despite not containing any tobacco, they would be affected by the same restrictions and regulations as traditional smokes.
It seems as though it may be up to the vaping community (again!) to educate the decision makers as to the true ramifications and effects of electronic cigarettes before they make a decision that could negatively affect millions around the globe.Chris Balme
About Chris Balme
Chris will be contributing to Spinfuel on a semi-regular basis. Using his contacts within E Cig Campaign Groups and E Cig Companies, he will bring Spinfuel eMagazine readers in-depth looks at the latest issues surrounding the vaping world. His articles will also contain ways in which you can help the wider vaping community.