France is preparing to place e-cigarettes on the same legal footing as tobacco smoking with draft legislation that aims to ban their use in public places.
The health minister, Marisol Touraine, intends to table a bill on 17 June bringing in anti-smoking measures, Le Figaro reported on Friday.
Not only would France become the first large European country to introduce the ban affecting e-cigarettes, but it would also follow Australia’s example by ordering plain packaging for tobacco products that display graphic pictures of diseases caused by smoking.
The proposed bill is more prohibitive than anti-smoking measures adopted by the European parliament in February. It comes at a time when e-cigarette stores have been springing up across France, which now has almost 1 million users.
The president of the French Tobacconists’ Confederation, Pascal Montredon, told the Guardian that Touraine was being unrealistic by modelling her reforms on “Anglo-Saxon” countries such as Australia and Britain where the cigarette distribution network is completely different from France.
“Tobacconists are fed up with being stigmatised at a time when instead the government should be doing something about the unemployment rate,” he said. The confederation is pressing for e-cigarettes to be sold solely in tobacconist stores, but the proposed legislation fails to address this, he said.
He also said the government needed to bring in measures to curb the parallel cigarette market which accounts for 25% of sales in France.
Other critics said that studies had shown that smokers are more influenced by family and friends in taking up smoking and that very few are influenced by packaging.
Touraine’s office did not confirm the report in Le Figaro, which was published on the eve of “world no tobacco day”. But the ministry said that a “national smoking reduction plan” was under consideration.
A total 73,000 French smokers die every year from tobacco-related cancers.