A French tobacconist won a landmark court case on Monday to stop a nearby shop selling e cigarettes after a court ruled it was unfair competition as the devices amounted to tobacco products.

The ruling has infuriated e cigarette vendors after months of heated debate in France and Europe over the legal definition of the devices and how freely they should be sold.

It could see a rash of court cases from among France’s 27,000 tobacconists, many of whom already sell e cigarettes but want the exclusive right to do so.

In the landmark case, Annie Pontus, the plaintiff who runs a tobacconist in the town of Plaisance du Touch near Toulouse, south west France, had sued a nearby shop, called Esmokeclean, which opened in June.

She accused its owners of breaching the legal monopoly on the sale of tobacco products in accredited outlets by promoting their wares in their shop, on Facebook and on their internet site.

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“We don’t have the right to advertise but these people, who sell nicotine based products, do,” she said, arguing that this was unfair.

Her lawyer said that e cigarettes and their liquids contain nicotine, and thus should be placed in the same legal bracket as tobacco products.

She also called on the government to limit the sale of the devices exclusively to tobacconists, as in the case of cigarettes.

Esmokeclean argued that e cigarettes are currently in a “legal vacuum” and therefore should not fall under the tobacconist’s monopoly.

But on Monday, the Toulouse court ruled that despite containing no tobacco, e cigarettes were substitute tobacco products. As a result, they should be subject to France’s state imposed monopoly on tobacco, which stipulates cigarettes and other products can only be sold in registered outlets.

The store’s lawyer announced an immediate appeal meaning for the moment the court’s judgment is not applicable. But it could eventually see the distribution of e cigarettes limited to a state imposed monopoly on tobacco sales.

Pascal Montredon, the president of the French confederation of tobacconists, welcomed the ruling as “excellent news”.

But Benjamin Echalier, lawyer for Reynald Pirat, one of the store owners, denounced it as “absurd and abhorrent” and one that “goes against what is tending to be decided on a European level”.

CACE, a body representing e cigarette vendors in France, slammed the verdict as “scandalous”.

“The e cigarette is an everyday consumer product and not a tobacoo product.

“The (court) has thus overstepped its powers by applying the status of tobacco product to the electronic cigarette,” it said, adding that it was confident that the ruling would be quashed on appeal.

This is the latest chapter in an increasingly acrimonious battle between those selling conventional tobacco cigarettes and battery powered electronic cigarettes, which release vapour.

It comes after the European Parliament recently ruled that e cigarettes were not in fact medicinal and could therefore remain on open sale, not just in tobacconists.

There are an estimated 1.5 million users of e cigarettes in France and almost one in five French adults has tried the device, according to a recent poll.

European commission proposes ban on all currently available electronic cigarettes : eu reporter

Cheapest pack of 20 cigarettes available in the uk? – the student room
EU Reporter Correspondent November 26, 2013 12 Comments

According to electronic cigarettes manufacturer Totally Wicked Ltd, documents, not intended for public consumption, defined last week in Brussels set out proposals from the European Commission, that if implemented would see all currently available electronic cigarettes removed from the market. These Commission proposals have been drafted as part of the negotiations taking place behind closed doors in Brussels to revise the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).

Among other things, the Commission proposes a ban on all refill liquids, a ban on refillable atomizers, a ban on almost all flavours, and arbitrary restrictions on nicotine levels without any justification. These proposals would subject electronic cigarettes to a significantly stricter regulatory regime than tobacco cigarettes.

Presently there are 10 million smokers in the UK. Every year, 114,000 UK citizens die from tobacco related illnesses according to figures produced by the NHS. Policymakers need to focus on reducing this number, says Totally Wicked conventional nicotine replacement therapies are not tackling this in any significant number, but electronic cigarettes are. Already 1.3 million UK smokers have switched to electronic cigarettes. If current growth rates continue, by 2017, when the revised TPD is due to come into force, there could be nearly five million former UK smokers using electronic cigarettes.

However, if the European Commission succeeds in having these proposals adopted there will be a shutdown of the general sale of currently available electronic cigarette products from 2017 throughout the UK and the wider EU.

This would leave tobacco cigarettes as the only freely available source of nicotine and those nearly five million e cigarette users would be left with no option but to go back to smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Totally Wicked Chief Executive Officer Fraser Cropper said Behind closed doors in Brussels, unaccountable and unelected bureaucrats are drafting proposals that will deny millions of existing and former smokers access to a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes. These proposals are based on a total lack of knowledge of how an electronic cigarette functions, and more importantly these proposals are being drafted without any consultation with the people who rely on these products to prevent them returning to tobacco cigarettes.

“Gross incompetence, craven capitulation to the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries or more sinister corrupt regulation, take your pick. However, what is absolutely clear is that these few individuals are attempting to destroy the utility of a truly remarkable product in the interests of perpetuating a sinister duopoly that is contrary to the interests of European public health and basic morality.

“Taken together, these proposals represent a ban on all currently available electronic cigarettes. This is contrary to the position taken by MEPs on the 8th of October who favoured preserving the market in its current form. Does the UK government support these proposals? We need to know and Parliament needs to have the opportunity to debate these proposals as a matter of priority.

For a copy of the European Commission document, click here.

Tags featured, full image, nicotine replacement therapies, public consumption, refillable atomizers, Tobacco Products Directive, Totally Wicked Ltd, TPD

Category Electronic cigarettes, European Commission, Frontpage, Health