French Court Rules E-Cigarettes are a Tobacco Product, Even Though They Contain No Tobacco

Can't laugh at France, same thing's happening in America


le sigh
Leonardo Rodriguez/

The war on e-cigarettes continues across the world. A licensed tobacconist in Plaisance-du-Touch, France filed a complaint against an e-cigarette retailer that set up shop nearby, complaining that the e-cigarette retailer was violating French public health codes, including by advertising e-cigarettes. In France only licensed tobacconists can sell tobacco products, under a state-imposed monopoly, and they cannot advertise them. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, but no tobacco. Neverthless, a French court agreed with the tobacconist, ruling that because e-cigarettes were an alternative to a tobacco product, they too constituted a tobacco product and the e-cigarette retailer presented "unfair competition" to registered tobacconists. The e-cigarette retailer will appeal the ruling, but France 24 reports the decision may already have wide ranging effects across the country:

"This sets a precedent that says that the sale of all products for smoking is restricted to licensed tobacconists," said Bertrand Desarnauts, the lawyer for the tobacconist who filed the complaint.

"This ruling implies that other sellers of electronic cigarettes will no longer be able to sell them in stores or on the Internet."

According to figures from the French Office for Smoking Prevention, there were 141 e-cigarette shops in France as of April 2013, but experts estimate this number could rise to 300 by the end of the year.

Commenting on Monday's ruling, France's Electronic Cigarette Stakeholders Group (CACE) said the court's decision could put 2,500 jobs at risk if it resulted in e-cigarette shops going out of business.

It claimed that e-cigarettes are "a consumer product and not a tobacco product" and accused the court in Toulouse of having "exceeded its powers".

There are 1.5 million users of e-cigarettes in France according to the government, which is considering imposing the same bans on the use of e-cigarettes as it does on actual cigarettes as well as a ban on the sale of them to minors.

Reason TV sat down to discuss the growth of the e-cigarette industry and the push for more regulations with the CEO of e-cigarette maker NJOY, which you can watch below:

More Reason on e-cigarettes here