On December 4, the French National Assembly voted in favor of banning single-use vapes, known in France as “puffs.” The motion was backed by 104 members of the country’s lower house—with none voting against.
In September, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne described the proposed ban as part of a wider anti-smoking plan. The government would “fight against smoking with, in particular, the prohibition of disposable electronic cigarettes,” she said, “the famous ‘puffs’ which give bad habits to young people.”
“They’re ridiculously cheap, the fruity and sugary flavors are attractive, and their small size makes them easy to hide from parents,” said Member of Parliament Francesca Pasquini, who submitted the draft law.
Before the ban can become law, it will need approval from both the French Senate and the European Commission. If that happens, it will be effective from September 24, 2024.
Advocates see the ban’s progress as just part of a worsening climate for tobacco harm reduction in France.
An estimated 34.6 percent of French adults smoke—well above the Western European average, and a proportion that has slightly risen since 2006. An estimated 3 million people vape in France, compared to 18.4 million who smoke.
Disposable vapes are often blamed for attracting underage users, but their ease of use and low initial cost make them accessible entry-points for many people who switch from cigarettes.
“The ban on puffs seems to be the first step toward a hostile vaping policy.”
Claude Bamberger, for example, who lives in Paris and is a volunteer for AIDUCE (Association Indépendante des Utilisateurs de Cigarette Electronique), an independent association of people who vape, quit smoking by switching to disposable vapes.
He told Filter he’s dismayed that the ban will likely go ahead because of “invented risks” to young people.
Philippe Poirson, vice president of Sovape, an independent association that promotes tobacco harm reduction in France, called the latest development “bad for public health.”
“The ban on puffs seems to be the first step toward a hostile vaping policy,” he told Filter. And it’s progressing “despite the fact that the prevalence of adult smoking in France has only decreased once in the past 20 years, when the Ministry of Health included vaping in smoking cessation aids between 2015-2019.”
He said he isn’t sure whether the government “is simply cynical or whether it followed the wrong analysis.”
Minister of Health Aurelien Roussea recently announced the 2023-2027 National Plan to Combat Smoking (PNLT). Its measures include mandating plain packaging for vaping products as well as cigarettes. Such restrictions, Poirson said, “are actually not against smoking but against vaping … if the government’s intention is truly public health, it is targeting the wrong issue.”
Poirson does not see the Senate or EU Commission opposing the ban.
Poirson pointed to data that show among young French people—the focus of youth-vaping concerns—prevalence of smoking has been declining at an accelerating rate since 2014, unlike with the population as a whole.
“This clearly shows that large [youth] experimentation of vaping does not lead to a collective ‘gateway effect’ to smoking,” he said. “In contrast, vaping could have a diversion effect.”
The ban on disposable vapes will probably go ahead with little thought for adults who would be at risk of returning to smoking, Poirson said. He does not see the Senate or EU Commission opposing it.
“The law will be passed by MPs under the influence of anti-vaping crusaders, supposed ‘tobacco control,’ and the elected officials under the influence of cigarette manufacturers,” he said.
“This law looks like something imagined by Orwell.”
Photograph by Dinkum via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain