A bill banning disposable vapes has been approved by the French parliament.
Vaping products that cannot be refilled or are powered by a non-rechargeable battery would be prohibited under the new law, although no date for when the ban will come into effect has yet been announced.
The bill, which has passed the scrutiny of both the National Assembly (the lower chamber of France’s parliament) and the Senate, will now be notified by the French government to the European Commission (EC), for it to give its opinion on whether the measures are proportional.
The EC’s opinion is not binding on the French government, but would be a significant factor taken to account if the law was challenged in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
While the UK has also recently announced a ban on disposable e-cigarettes to tackle youth vaping and waste, it is no longer an EU member, and a 2021 attempt by Belgium to ban disposables was met with a negative opinion from the EC.
The EC’s rejection of Belgium’s planned legislation was based on the fact that the 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) – still in force, although currently under revision – prevents member states from prohibiting or restricting “the placing on the market of tobacco or related products which comply with this directive”.
It seems unlikely the EC could come up with a different opinion on a disposable vape ban in France.
Breaking bad habits among youth?
France’s ban on the manufacturing, distribution and sale of disposable e-cigarettes is part of the National Tobacco Control Plan (PNLT) announced by the French government in November last year, which covers the years 2023 to 2027 and also includes new proposed restrictions on flavours in vaping products.
According to the French government, these measures – which raised harsh criticism among harm-reduction advocates and e-cigarette users in France – are aimed at protecting the environment and curbing youth vaping as part of a plan to reach a tobacco consumption prevalence of less than 5% by 2032.
“We will protect our citizens, the younger ones in particular, from ‘appealing products’ which lead to nicotine and tobacco addiction, through a ban on disposable electronic cigarettes and by working to limit the number of authorised flavours in vaping products,” said Aurélien Rousseau, then French minister of health and prevention, when the plan was unveiled.
In the case of disposable e-cigarettes, known as “puffs” in France, former prime minister Élisabeth Borne, who was replaced in January with Gabriel Attal by the country’s president Emmanuel Macron in a bid to increase the government’s popularity, said in an interview with French broadcaster RTL that puffs needed to be banned because they give young users bad habits which, she said, may lead to tobacco smoking addiction.
“It is not just about the nicotine, it’s a reflex and a gesture young people get accustomed to and this is how they move towards tobacco addiction,” Borne said, causing uproar among vaping supporters.
Praise and criticism
The ban’s unanimous approval by the Senate raised mixed reactions.
Although the country’s anti-tobacco alliance ACT welcomed the news, saying this was “a victory for the environment and the fight against nicotine addiction”, vaping organisations were critical.
While saying the ban will only do the tobacco industry a favour, vaping association Sovape accused the government of “prohibiting the most practical and accessible form of a quitting tool while not even touching cigarettes, which, in return, kill”.
At the same time, Sovape said, no alternative was put in place “for the 1m to 2m users, mainly adults, at risk of turning back to smoking”.
– Tiziana Cauli ECigIntelligence staff