A court in France passed a landmark ruling in December 2013, when it ordered an e-cigarette shop to stop selling the devices after deciding that they qualified as tobacco products and should only be sold by tobacconists. The commercial court of Toulouse also ruled that ecigarettes should be subject to the same broad ban on advertising as their analog counterparts.
Thе stоry bеgins with Аnniе Pоntus, thе plаintiff, whо runs а tоbаccоnist in thе tоwn оf Plаisаncе-du-Tоuch nеаr Tоulоusе, Sоuth-Wеst Frаncе, whо suеd а nеаrby shоp, cаllеd Еsmоkеclеаn, which оpеnеd in Junе оf 2013. Thе tоbаccоnist аccusеd thе Еsmоkеclеаn shоp оf “unfаir cоmpеtitiоn”, аs it viоlаtеd nаtiоnаl hеаlth lаws by аdvеrtising vаping prоducts insidе thе еstаblishmеnt, оn its оnlinе stоrе аnd its Fаcеbооk pаgе.
“On their window it says ‘smoke another way’, and things like that. We don’t have the right to advertise but these people, who sell nicotine-based products, do," Pontus had argued “If these shops have all their rights, including that of advertising, I don’t see why tobacconists don’t also have those rights,” she said.
Her lawyer argued that ecigarettes also contain nicotine, thus must be regulated as all the other tobacco products and that they are a smoking product which is advertised as such and which contains the word “cigarette” in its name. Only tobacconists should have the legal right to sell these products.
On the other hand, the defense said that ecigs aren’t currently regulated by any law and they didn’t even exist when the tobacco monopoly law was passed in 1991. The defense also stated that these were everyday devices used for recreational purposes and not tobacco or medicinal products.
But surprisingly, the Toulouse court ruled that despite containing only nicotine and no tobacco, electronic cigarettes were still substitute tobacco products and thus have to be subjected to France's state imposed monopoly on tobacco, which stipulates cigarettes and other products can only be sold in registered shops across the country.
The defense lawyer announced an immediate appeal which means that at least for now the court order is not applicable but it’s a definite step towards the selling of ecigarettes only in registered stores while Pascal Montredon, the president of the French confederation of tobacconists, said about the ruling that it was "excellent news". On the other hand Benjamin Echalier, one of the shop owners’ attorneys stated that the ruling "goes against what is tending to be decided on a European level".
Meanwhile, Marisol Touraine, France's health minister, has said she wants to ban ecigarettes from public spaces and also to ban advertising on them in a moment when all the attention is on the European legislators who need to come up with clear regulations in what these devices are concerned.
Mickaël Hammoudi, who heads a French e-cig lobby group, said that "The court went beyond its powers deciding on a matter that is not yet subject to a law," while “his puts 2,500 jobs at risk.”
There are at least 1.5 million vapers in France, and almost one in five adults has tried such a device at least once.