France limits sale of nicotine products after coronavirus research

France on Friday limited the sale of nicotine substitutes to avoid stockpiling after research suggested the addictive substance could have the potential to protect people from contracting the coronavirus.

France limits sale of nicotine products after coronavirus research
French Health Minister Olivier Véran on Friday urged citizens not to rush out and buy nicotine products. Photo: AFP

The government said that until May 11th, when the country's lockdown is planned to gradually begin lifting, pharmacies would only be able to sell a maximum of one month's worth of products treating nicotine dependence, such as patches, chewing gum or lozenges.

The sale of such products online was suspended entirely.

The move was to “firstly prevent the health risks from excessive consumption or misuse linked to media coverage of the possible protective effect of nicotine against COVID-19,” the government said in a statement.

“Secondly it guarantees continuous and appropriate supply to people requiring medical support to stop smoking.”

Researchers at a top Paris hospital released a study on Wednesday examining nearly 500 coronavirus patients, finding that only five percent smoked – far less than the 35 percent in France's general population.

READ ALSO: Nicotine, sea worms and plasma – the coronavirus treatments France is trialling

The research echoed similar findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month that found 12.6 percent of 1,000 Chinese cases were smokers, compared to 26 percent of China's population.

The French researchers are awaiting approval to carry out further trials, including using nicotine patches on health workers at the Paris hospital to see if it protects them against contracting the virus.

The theory is that nicotine could adhere to cell receptors, thereby blocking the virus from entering cells and spreading in the body, said the study's co-author, neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux from France's Pasteur Institut.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran on Friday urged citizens not to rush out and buy nicotine products, telling France Inter radio that there are 70,000 deaths due to tobacco each year in France.

But he called the research “interesting” and said that products similar to nicotine could be developed that could help avoid its “addictive effects”.

France is one of the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, with nearly 22,000 deaths and more than 158,000 reported infections.

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Life in France: 5 plants that (allegedly) repel mosquitoes

Summer in France brings lots of good stuff and some deeply annoying things, like mosquitoes. But did you know that there are plants that you can add to your garden or balcony that will repel these deeply unwelcome visitors?

Life in France: 5 plants that (allegedly) repel mosquitoes

If you’re one of these people who are attractive to mosquitoes then you’ll know the misery of spending the summer covered in itchy red lumps – and the bad news is that the rising global temperatures mean that ‘mosquito season’ in France now lasts longer.

It’s a common problem and in the summer French florists and garden centres often sell ‘anti-moustique‘ plants.

We’re not promising a 100 percent repellent rate, but these are some plants that apparently help.

In good news, most of them are small enough so that you can grow them on your balcony or in a window box if you don’t have a garden.  

Mint (menthe)

A common herb that many people might already have in their gardens, but mosquitoes apparently hate the lovely, fresh scent of mint.

And even if it fails to ward off the bugs, at least you can use the leaves to garnish food or make a nice big jug of Pimms (which might distract you from your horrible, itchy bites).

READ MORE: France’s most toxic plants and berries to watch out for

Marigolds (Rose d’inde, sometimes known as Souci)

These are a popular choice to add a touch of colour to a window box or balcony, as well as to a garden, and have the added benefit of warding off mosquitoes.

Gardeners like them because can boost the growth of other plants when planted together.

Rosemary (romarain)

Another aromatic herb that humans love and mosquitoes apparently hate.

If you’re planting it in the garden use a container because it has a tendency to spread and take over your garden. If you don’t want to grown it, or don’t have the space, you can always add a couple of sprigs to your grill when barbecuing to help keep the mosquitoes away as you dine outdoors.

Lemongrass (citronelle)

You’ll certainly be aware of citronella scent from various mosquito-repelling products including oils and candles, but you can also grow it in the your garden.

It grows quite big so might not be suitable for small gardens or window boxes.

Even if it doesn’t succeed in keeping insets away, you can use it in cooking to add a lemony flavour.

Wormwood (absinthe)

The final one on the list is usually said to be the most effective, but should be used with caution as it is toxic if eaten.

You can grow it in your garden or in a window box, but take great care that it doesn’t end up with your edible herbs as it will make you sick – if you have a garden when children or animals are present then it’s probably best to avoid this one altogether, but on the plus side its pungent scent will keep mosquitoes away.

As the French name suggests, wormwood is one of the main ingredients in the drink Absinthe and is what gives it the distinctive green colour.

Legend has it that wormwood is the active ingredient that makes people hallucinate after drinking absinthe, but in fact the drink is not hallucinogenic and never was. It is extremely strong though, which might explain some of those ‘visions’!

Other tips

Mosquitoes like to hang out and to breed in water or long grass, so you can help keep them away by eliminating their favourite spots. For example;

  • Keep lawns trimmed
  • Eliminate sources of stagnant water eg old plant pots that collect rainwater
  • Keep your gutters clear
  • If you have a pond consider installing a small fountain or pump, as mosquitoes usually won’t lay eggs in moving water