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French court ruling could spell end of specialist e-cigarette stores

| December 11, 2013

A court in France ruled on Monday that e-cigarettes qualify as tobacco products and as such can be sold only by licensed tobacconists, according to a story by Sam Ball for France 24.

The ruling threatens to put specialist e-cigarette sellers across the country out of business.

It was made by a court in Toulouse following a complaint by a tobacconist in the nearby town of Plaisance-du-Touch against e-cigarette seller Esmokeclean after it set up shop close by the tobacconist.

The tobacconist claimed that Esmokeclean was violating France’s public health code through advertisements at its shop, and at its online store and on its Facebook page.

Tobacco products may be sold in France only at registered outlets under a state-imposed monopoly, and their advertising is banned.

The court decided that, in acting as a substitute for cigarettes, e-cigarettes constituted tobacco products, and therefore Esmokeclean was violating these laws.

It ordered the company to stop selling and advertising e-cigarettes, saying that doing so constituted “unfair competition” to registered tobacconists.

A lawyer for Esmokeclean said the company would appeal against the ruling.

Commenting on Monday’s ruling, France’s Electronic Cigarette Stakeholders Group (CACE) said that e-cigarettes comprised a consumer product and not a tobacco product, and it accused the court in Toulouse of having exceeded its powers.

There are an estimated 1.5 million vapers in France and about 140 e-cigarette stores, a number that had been estimated to rise to 300 by the end of this year.

There has been significant debate in the country over how e-cigarettes should be treated under French law and, in part, the trend has been to lump these products together with tobacco cigarettes. A report by a panel of experts earlier this year recommended that e-cigarettes should be banned in all places where traditional cigarettes are prohibited, and it recommended the imposition of a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Category: Breaking News

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