French Court Rules E-Cigs Are Subject to Tobacco Regulations
As the world debates how to regulate electronic cigarettes, French courts have made a dangerous decision that could have consequences worldwide. In a ground breaking court case, the judge ruled that e-cigarettes should be treated as tobacco products and insisted that they be subjected to the same rules and regulations. This could be a monumental problem for vapers around the world if other regulating agencies follow suit.
A Toulouse tobacconist shop began the whole problem by taking legal action against a nearby vaping shop. The tobacco dealer claimed the ecig store was harming their business by selling e-cigarettes without a legal registration to offer tobacco products. While e-cigarettes are technically tobacco-free, there has been some debate over whether they should be exempt from tobacco regulations. After hearing the arguments, the French court ruled in favor of the tobacco store saying that only registered tobacco dealers could offer e-cigarettes. The e-cig shop intends to appeal the ruling, but if higher French courts choose to uphold the ruling, it could instantly put hundreds of businesses out on the street. Thousands would lose their jobs and e-cigs would face strict new regulations that would be counterproductive.
As the world reacted to the ruling, there was much outrage and anxiety. Barenberg senior global tobacco analyst Erik Bloomquist said the French ruling could have a major impact on how the European Union moves forward with e-cig regulations in the future. “This could lead to greater regulation of the e-cigarette industry, and yes, in terms of manufacturing and distribution it could put a squeeze on the nascent e-cigarette industry,” he told reporters.
By making it illegal to sell e-cigs without a tobacco registration, it will give big tobacco companies another advantage and make it impossible for small e-cig operations to compete. “It could in fact be more favorable for the majors,” Bloomquist reiterated.
Others worry that the decision could have a negative impact on e-cigarette sales. If electronic cigarettes are subjected to tobacco taxes and they are only available through registered tobacco dealers, it could essentially erase any advantage they might have over actual tobacco products. This would cause many smokers to just switch back to their old cigarettes and it would kill any motivation they have to use e-cigs in the first place.
Before the French court announced the verdict, Euromonitor International projected global e-cig sales would reach $3.5 billion this year. France anticipated e-cig sales to increase by 100 percent in the coming year, but that might not happen if the court ruling stands. It could have a drastic economic impact with reduced sales and a rise in unemployment with 300 e-cig shops forced to close or go through the rigorous tobacco registration process. Around 2,500 people could lose their jobs.
The only real expression of displeasure over the verdict came from an upbeat spokesman at British American Tobacco. Will Hill told reporters that BAT were open to regulations and even welcomed them. It’s not too surprising considering BAT’s resources and all they stand to gain by putting the smaller competitors out of business.
The United States could also feel the impact of the court ruling as the FDA is still deciding how to regulate e-cigarettes in 2014. If France takes a hard stance on vaping products, the FDA might do the same. Ultimately, the whole scenario could spell disaster for vapers worldwide. Are you concerned that the French court ruling will impact your right to use e-cigs freely?