E-Cigarettes to be Sold only by Tobacconists

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Commercial Court rules that electronic cigarettes represented “disloyal competition” for tobacconists

As any smoker on holiday to France will know, cigarettes and tobacco are only available at licensed tobacconists, known as a tabac.

As taxation on cigarettes in France increases and the sale of electronic cigarettes increases, many tobacconists have been feeling the pinch. One Toulouse tobacconist decided to take a case to the Commercial Court on this very matter, having tired of watching many of his customers leave his shop to go around the corner to get a replacement product from someone who wasn’t a licensed tobacconist.

Today, in Toulouse, the Commercial Court handed down a landmark judgement in favour of the tobacco retailer, effectively making it illegal to advertised electronic cigarettes and (now) to sell them anywhere other than in a licensed tobacconist’s.

The ruling affects the greater Toulouse area but it’s expected that this decision will soon be replicated throughout the country as other tobacconists take heart. The ban on e-cigarettes also extends to the internet. The “Esmokeclean” company is forced to cease all promotion of their popular electronic cigarettes.

Lawyers representing the tobacconist were delighted with the decision, saying that “these products are destined to be smoked like all other tobacco substitute products, so the Public Health Code applies. This is a first for France. The judgement states that all selling of electronic cigarettes must be the sole preserve of the network of tobacconists; it’s not an everyday product and has to be segregated as such. The electronic cigarette shops will have to try selling something else.”

For his part, lawyer Benjamin Echalier representing Esmokeclean says that “there is no legal foundation or precedent for this decision. It’s an injustice. And it’s technically incoherent.” Esmokeclean owner Rénald Pirat wondered aloud “why were we given the right to open these shops in the first place? We feel like we’re up against a brick wall here. Brussels ruled that it was a common consumer product.”

For the time being, all e-cigarette shops in France will remain in business pending an appeal of the decision.

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