France Prepares E-Cigarette Ban Amid Youth Addiction and Environmental Concerns

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The prevalence of e-cigarettes, popularly known by locals as “puffs” is facing a stern challenge in France. An imminent ban is fueled by growing concerns for both environmental and public health safety. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne revealed, during a recent interview aired on RTL radio, that this move springs up as part of a wide-ranging anti-smoking policy being put together by the government. If all goes according to plan, effects of the ban will be felt by the year’s end.

This development isn’t solely unique to France, as European nations such as Ireland, Belgium, and Germany have all declared analogous bans. The UK stands on advent of a similar declaration too.

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In France’s liberty-loving tobacco outlets, disposable vapes could be secured for a modest sum of 9 Euros, a lower price than a 20-pack of cigarettes. Marketed as holding about 600 puffs, advocates for the tobacco industry equate it to about 40 cigarettes. France’s National Academy of Medicine however, deems them “an especially scheming snare for children and adolescents.”

Defenders of this ban argue that manufacturers, with a good number based in China, have deliberately positioned their products to appeal to teenagers, adopting vibrant palettes and offering novelty tastes that evoke memories of confectioneries; chocolate and hazelnut, marshmallows, watermelon, and ice candy, amongst others.

Mixed reactions have trailed this stance. According to the Alliance Against Tobacco (ACT), statistical data reveals that 13% of 13 to-16-year-olds have tried “puffs” at least once. Most of them, as the data suggests, got the introduction around the ages of 11 or 12.

Loïc Josseran, ACT president sees this ban as “a great victory for civil society” because “disposable e-cigarettes are acting as a pathway to smoking for young people. “This has taken the proportions of an epidemic. It is disheartening to note the lengths to which the tobacco industry would go to hook children,” he shares.

For others like Sam, a 16-year-old student from Paris, vaping held an unexplainable appeal after they hit the French market. “It was trending heavily on TikTok. And I thought, why not? In my mind, they are less harmful than tobacco. I enjoy iced grape and apricot flavors. I guess I will switch to regular vapes if the ban sails through,” he revealed.

Unforeseen problems occur when these “puffs” are marketed to those under 18. Sam admits it was quite easy to circumvent the age restriction and ACT reveals that tobacconists habitually omit to ask for proof of age.

Alongside these public health concerns is an increasing worry about the environmental degradation influenced by disposable e-cigarettes. A recent UK study by environmental group, Material Focus, shows that over one million devices are discarded weekly. According to an article by French doctors and environmentalists in Le Monde newspaper, “each disposable e-cigarette made of plastic come with a non-removable battery with around 0.15 grams of lithium, not to forget nicotine salts and traces of heavy metals.” They summarized the situation in one phrase – “an environmental plague.”