E-cigs vs tobacco war heads to French court

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E-cigs vs tobacco war heads to French court
A landmark legal case is set to take place in France surrounding the advertising of e-cigarettes. Photo: Platenc/JoseandRoxanne/ Flickr

The battle between electronic cigarettes and the conventional tobacco kind is becoming increasingly bitter in France as one tobacconist sets a precedent by becoming the first in the country to take legal action against a nearby e-cigarette store over advertising.


Annie Pontus, who runs a tobacco shop in Plaisance-du-Touch, near Toulouse, is up in arms over the e-cigarette store “Esmokeclean,” located just 100m from her shop, which she says isn't competing on a level playing field.

Explaining why she has decided to take legal action against Esmokeclean she old Europe1 radio: “It’s the advertising that bothers us.”

“On their window it says ‘smoke another way’, and things like that. We don’t have the right to advertise but these people, who sell nicotine-based products, do," she added.

According to Pontus and her lawyer, e-cigarettes and their liquids contain nicotine, so should therefore be placed in the same bracket as tobacco products. She also believes the government should regulate their sale and make it law that tobacconists have the exclusive right to sell the devices.

“If these shops have all their rights, including that of advertising, I don’t see why newsagents don’t also have those rights,” she said.

Pontus is the first tobacconist in France to manage to take this kind of case to court.

The tobacconist's legal action comes after the European Parliament ruled on Tuesday that e-cigarettes were not in fact medicinal and could therefore remain on open sale.  

If the bill gets approved by the 28 member states then both private stores and tobacconists will continue to have the right to sell the hugely popular electronic cigarettes. The EU bill also seeks to outlaw all advertising of e-cigarettes in an attemt to discourage all forms of smoking. 

Reynald Pirat, one of the owners of Esmokeclean, seemed to suggest he thought the case was a lot of hot air, calling it a “tall tale.” “They are the addiction and we are the cure, it’s ironic really” he said.

Pirat, who owns another e-cigarette shop in Colomiers in the Haute-Garonne region, and his lawyer Benjamin Echalier, deny that e-cigarettes should be classed as a tobacco product.

The case will come before a judge on the 17th October, when Pontus hopes to see Esmokeclean court ordered to stop advertising their wares.

by Naomi Firsht

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