Complaints by non-smokers has prompted the mayor of a French town to become the first in the country to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public buildings, it was revealed this week.
François Digard, who is in charge of the town of Saint-Lo in La Manche region of Normandy passed a decree this month outlawing electronic cigarettes, after receiving several complaints from members of the public.
Digard took action after several non-smokers protested at the use of the devices in public libraries.
“The e-cigarette is not neutral in the immediate environment. With it emitting odour and a little smoke it can really bother some people,” Digard told local radio station France Bleu Cotentin.
“This is not a witch hunt against smokers, but about accommodating the needs of everyone,” he added.
The move was backed by some members of the public.
“It’s a really good idea. I don’t know why we make a difference between those who use e-cigarettes and those who smoke. There are certain places that are non-smoking and that’s that,” one told Le Parisien.
But others have been left fuming by the decree.
“Really, it’s over the top. These are nothing like ordinary cigarettes. There is a little cloud of vapour and it disappears quickly,” Maxime, who has just opened a e-cigarette shop in the town told Le Parisien.
The libraries and municipal offices of Saint-Lo are not the first places in France, however, where e-cigarettes are not tolerated. The devices are already banned on trains, as well as the Paris Metro and several private companies are believed to have already banned the use in their offices.
Smoking is still permitted in the cafes and bars of Saint-Lo although perhaps not for much longer.
Earlier this year France’s Health Minister Marisol Touraine announced her intention to bring in a law that would ban the devices in all public spaces, including cafes and restaurants, as is the case for cigarettes.
The minister also wants to restrict the use of e-cigarettes to over 18s. “The e-cigarette is not an ordinary product,” the minister said. “We need to apply the same measures as there are for tobacco.”
The move was labelled draconian and counter-productive by many, who say the devices are helping thousands give up smoking each year.
In October the European Parliament voted against reclassifying electronic cigarettes as medicinal, which would have restricted their sale to pharmacies.
The move was backed by a group of French doctors.
It’s a very wise decision,” Dr Philippe Presles, a tobacco specialist at the Insitut Moncey, told The Local. “This way, research can continue in order to improve e-cigarettes and e-liquids,” products he believes have a demonstrable record of helping tobacco-users to quit.”