Alongside several US States and other countries around the world, France is preparing to place electronic cigarettes on the same legal footing as tobacco products with a draft legislation that aims to a e-cigarette ban in public places.

Speaking to France Info radio recently, Health Minister Marisol Touraine confirmed all speculation and that a new proposed law will apparently be released sometime this summer, detailing exactly what these ‘public’ places are.

‘The e-cigarette is not an ordinary product, ‘the minister said. ‘We need to apply the same measures as there are for tobacco. That means making sure it cannot be smoked in public places, that its sale is restricted to over 18s and that firms are not allowed to advertise the products.’

This means that not only would France become the first large European country to introduce the ban affecting ecigs, but it would also follow Australia’s example to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products that display graphic pictures of diseases caused by smoking.

Ecig ban in France The president of French vapers’ association AIDUCE, Brice Lepoutre, says the Health Minister is not entirely misguided in wanting to protect the country’s youth against a product, many wrongly perceive as a possible door to smoking, but says young people are not very interested in electronic cigarettes. ‘Generally, teens who try electronic cigarettes usually give up on them, because they are too technical, too complicated compared to analogs,’ said Lepoutre in an interview to Europe1. He also recommended lawmakers to keep in mind that new evidence shows ecigs actually help people quit or cut down on smoking tobacco, as indicated by the reduction rate of tobacco smoking since the introduction of e-cigarettes on the French market.

However, the country’s’ tobacconists believe the Health Minister is being unrealistic by modeling these reforms on other countries such as Australia and Britain where the cigarette distribution network is completely different from France. ‘Tobacconists are fed up with being stigmatized at a time when instead the government should be doing something about the unemployment rate,’ said Pascal Montredon, the president of the French Tobacconists’ Confederation.

He is fighting for e-cigarettes to be sold solely in tobacconist stores, and not in regular vape shops, but the proposed legislation fails to address this.

Banning e-cigarettes in public places could do serious damage to France’s thriving ecig industry, which has enjoyed quite a boom in the past few months. ‘If they ban it in public or in the workplace, I’ll be closing my store, or moving it somewhere where there aren’t restrictions like that,’ said Darren Moon, the English proprietor of Vapshop.fr

‘20 percent of our business is selling disposable e-cigarettes to restaurants, clubs, bars and hotels. So if there’s a workplace ban, I’d have to start firing people’ he added.

Around 500,000 French people are estimated to use electronic cigarettes on a regular basis as a way of getting rid of their nasty tobacco smoking habit, and vapers can freely use them in bars and restaurants, where traditional smoking is banned as well as at work.