France planning to ban disposable vapes in effort to combat smoking

3 September 2023

By Lisa O’Carroll, The Guardian

Ban follows similar measures in Germany, Australia and New Zealand amid concern over health effects

Disposable vapes will be banned in France as part of a national plan to combat smoking, the prime minister said on Sunday.

Élisabeth Borne told the broadcaster RTL that the government would “soon present a new national plan to fight against smoking with, in particular, the prohibition of disposable electronic cigarettes, the famous ‘puffs’ which give bad habits to young people”.

The French government is putting the final touches to its 2024 budget with a wider plan to reduce smoking, which Borne said was the cause of 75,000 deaths a year in the country.

She said the plan did not include another tax rise on cigarettes, adding: “But that does not mean we are not vigilant about tobacco consumption.”

Her main concern is disposable vapes, known as “puffs” in France, which she says are a gateway to smoking.

She is worried that the cigarettes with flavours such as ice candy, marshmallow and bubblegum reminiscent of childhood sweets and priced at €8 (£6.85) to €12 for 500 “puffs” are targeting teenagers.

Several European countries are also looking at banning them. Online sales are banned in Belgium and a national consultation on prohibition is under way in Ireland. In Germany the government has banned flavoured e-cigarettes, with the drugs tsar warning this can only be a start.

Australia has taken the toughest response, making vapes prescription only, reducing their nicotine content and restricting flavours.

In New Zealand, similar steps have been taken with a ban on most disposable vapes and curbs on marketing to children, including a prohibition on vape shops near schools and rules that require generic flavouring descriptions. The rules, which came into effect in August, were designed to continue the sale of disposable cigarettes for those who use them as a transition to giving up smoking.

Irish research shows that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are up to five times more likely to start smoking compared with those who do not.

According to data released last year, New Zealand’s smoking prevalence had dropped to 8% – one of the lowest in the world – but the rise in daily vape users was larger than the drop in daily smokers.

The number of year 10 students – about 14 years old – in New Zealand who vaped daily had tripled, from 3.1% in 2019 to 9.6% in 2021.

This year France’s then health minister said that although Emmanuel Macron’s government had no majority in parliament, ministers would “work with lawmakers” to reach a deal on a ban.

François Braun said the law could be enacted “before the end of this year”.