According to a May 31 report from Reuters, France is now issuing a ban against electronic cigarettes in all public venues. While France used to be a place where seemingly everyone smoked, now cigarettes have become a public enemy for Health Minister Marisol Touraine. In 2007, France banned the use of tobacco cigarettes in public and now six years later, they are enforcing the same restrictions for tobacco-free electronic cigarettes.
After the 2007 ban on cigarettes, many smokers in France began to use electronic cigarettes as a lawful alternative. The French government reports that around 500,000 people are currently using electronic cigarettes, which until today’s ban were legal to use in cafes, restaurants, and bars. Now the new ban on e-cigs will force people to get their nicotine fix from the privacy of their own homes.
During today’s announcement of the new e-cig restrictions, Touraine explained that e-cig users will encounter three new restrictions. First, e-cigs are now completely forbidden from use in all public places. This means smokers who used electronic cigarettes as an alternative in public are now out of options.
Second, e-cig companies will not be allowed to advertise. That creates an unfortunate disadvantage for smokers in France who do not know about the benefits of electronic cigarettes compared with the harmful risks associated with tobacco smoking. Unless these people do their own research and seek out information about e-cigs, they simply won’t learn that this alternative exists because e-cig advertisements throughout the country will cease.
Third, the new restrictions make it illegal for minors to purchase electronic cigarettes. Perhaps this is the only positive aspect of the new legislation. Touraine announced details of the ban today, citing lack of research on the long-term impact of e-cig use.
While current research is limited, new studies are being conducted all the time. It seems that officials are only considering a handful of flawed studies rather than taking an objective look at all the current information that supports e-cigs as a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes.
Those who wish to completely ban the use of electronic cigarettes tend to argue that e-cigs just increase temptation to smoke. Touraine parroted this sentiment by saying, “This is no ordinary product because it encourages mimicking and could promote taking up smoking.”
This is another example of how people often misunderstand the purpose of e-cigarettes. These products are not designed or marketed to appeal to people who do not presently smoke. Instead, they serve as an alternative for current smokers who wish to eliminate the harmful effects of tobacco, tar, and second-hand smoke. The e-cig does not lure nonsmokers to start smoking anymore than nicotine gum or patches.
Ultimately, people in France will get their nicotine fix in one way or another. Wouldn’t it be better for them to choose a tobacco free option like the electronic cigarette? Tobacco already kills 66,000 people in France each year. Another 5,000 die from exposure to second hand smoke. If those numbers will ever be reduced, banning alternatives to tobacco might not be the smartest move.
Even the expert behind the new French report said the ban was not a good course of action. While he mentioned concerns about the unknown long-term risks, he said e-cigs seemed far safer than tobacco and banning them would be counterproductive.
Electronic cigarette use is already heavily restricted in many places. In New Zealand and Australia, e-cig sales are restricted because they are classified as medical devices. It’s illegal to use e-cigs at all in Brazil or Singapore. You can’t use e-cigs on airplanes and now in France, you can’t use them anywhere in public.
With so little evidence that e-cigarettes are harmful and plenty of evidence that they can be a positive alternative for smokers, why are they continually banned? France is just the latest country to jump on board in the fight against electronic cigarettes. What do you think about this new public ban? Take a minute to sound off with your opinions in the comments!