French vapers say flavour ban may drive them to black market or back to smoking

Over 50% of French vapers would turn to the black market or buy e-cigarettes from abroad, while 25% would consider resuming cigarette smoking if a flavour ban is implemented or taxes are too high, a survey revealed.

A survey named “Merci la vape” (Thank You Vaping) launched at the end of May by four French vaping consumer associations questioned e-cigarette users in the country. The recently published survey results show concern over possible vaping restrictions that have gained support from both healthcare organisations and the government.

French organisations Aiduce, Sovape, La Vape du Coeur, and Fivape ran the survey for six months until the end of September and defined it as “one of the largest investigations ever carried out over a population of vaping product consumers”.

The study collected answers from 40,000 respondents, 98% of which are vapers.

Among all respondents, 96% said they reduced or stopped smoking thanks to vaping, while 63% reported that they were not properly informed by French healthcare institutions about e-cigarettes.

“Eight out of ten French people don’t know that vaping is much less dangerous than smoking,” the survey’s report reads.

“This perception is contrary to scientific knowledge, and it prevents smokers from quitting.”


Against flavour bans


According to the survey’s findings, banning flavoured vaping products could be counterproductive for public health, as it would push vapers to buy illegal or foreign products whose level of safety is uncertain or to switch back to tobacco smoking.

“Condemning former cigarette smokers to tobacco flavour as their only option is absurd, because it’s precisely the diversity of flavours which facilitates quitting cigarette smoking,” the study’s authors wrote.

Based on the research, 95% of vapers in France use at least one flavour other than tobacco.

“Flavours need to remain available within a regulated and controlled framework,” the study reads.

According to the four organisations which promoted the survey, keeping flavoured products legal helps ensure they are safe for consumers. They said: “The making and sale of e-liquids by professionals is the best way to guarantee their control for users’ safety.”

Based on the research, 74% of French vapers use fruit-flavoured products, followed by sweet flavours – chosen by 42%.

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    Mint and menthol flavours are preferred by 22% of e-cigarette users in the country, whereas 15% opt for different beverage flavours.

    While 15% of vapers said they use a mixture of tobacco and other flavours, 12% opt for just tobacco and only 2% vape with unflavoured products.


    The risks of high taxes


    According to the report, high taxes on vaping products may prevent tobacco smokers from switching to a less harmful alternative.

    While e-cigarettes are currently not subject to excise tax in France, and they were not affected by this year’s tax increase following the linking of traditional tobacco product prices to inflation, they are still subject to a regular 20% value-added tax (VAT).

    However, according to the organisations that promoted the survey, the VAT applied to vaping products should be reduced to make them accessible to lower income users as a reliable tool to quit cigarette smoking.

    “Overtaxing a device that helps quit smoking is unfair,” they said. “Taxes should not represent a barrier to the use of e-cigarettes. VAT on vaping products should be reduced to 5.5% to facilitate access by disadvantaged people, who are the most affected by cigarette smoking.”


    A petition in support of vaping


    The survey is part of a larger campaign, which also includes a petition to keep vaping flavours legal, keep consumer costs accessible and to ask for objective information on harm reduction.

    The petition was launched at the end of May and will remain open until the end of the year. It has collected 70,000 signatures so far and is expected to reach 100,000 by 31st December, the organisers said.

    – Tiziana Cauli ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Romain B

    Tiziana Cauli

    Senior reporter/health & science editor
    Tiziana is an Italian journalist from Sardinia. She has worked for both international and local media in Italy, South Africa, France, Spain, the UK, Lebanon and Belgium. She also worked as a communications manager for several international NGOs in the humanitarian sector. Tiziana holds a degree in Political Science and a PhD in African Studies from the University of Cagliari and she’s a graduate of the Carlo De Martino school of journalism in Milan.

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