A French tobacconist won a landmark court case on Monday to stop a nearby shop selling e cigarettes after a court ruled it was unfair competition as the devices amounted to tobacco products.

The ruling has infuriated e cigarette vendors after months of heated debate in France and Europe over the legal definition of the devices and how freely they should be sold.

It could see a rash of court cases from among France’s 27,000 tobacconists, many of whom already sell e cigarettes but want the exclusive right to do so.

In the landmark case, Annie Pontus, the plaintiff who runs a tobacconist in the town of Plaisance du Touch near Toulouse, south west France, had sued a nearby shop, called Esmokeclean, which opened in June.

She accused its owners of breaching the legal monopoly on the sale of tobacco products in accredited outlets by promoting their wares in their shop, on Facebook and on their internet site.

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“We don’t have the right to advertise but these people, who sell nicotine based products, do,” she said, arguing that this was unfair.

Her lawyer said that e cigarettes and their liquids contain nicotine, and thus should be placed in the same legal bracket as tobacco products.

She also called on the government to limit the sale of the devices exclusively to tobacconists, as in the case of cigarettes.

Esmokeclean argued that e cigarettes are currently in a “legal vacuum” and therefore should not fall under the tobacconist’s monopoly.

But on Monday, the Toulouse court ruled that despite containing no tobacco, e cigarettes were substitute tobacco products. As a result, they should be subject to France’s state imposed monopoly on tobacco, which stipulates cigarettes and other products can only be sold in registered outlets.

The store’s lawyer announced an immediate appeal meaning for the moment the court’s judgment is not applicable. But it could eventually see the distribution of e cigarettes limited to a state imposed monopoly on tobacco sales.

Pascal Montredon, the president of the French confederation of tobacconists, welcomed the ruling as “excellent news”.

But Benjamin Echalier, lawyer for Reynald Pirat, one of the store owners, denounced it as “absurd and abhorrent” and one that “goes against what is tending to be decided on a European level”.

CACE, a body representing e cigarette vendors in France, slammed the verdict as “scandalous”.

“The e cigarette is an everyday consumer product and not a tobacoo product.

“The (court) has thus overstepped its powers by applying the status of tobacco product to the electronic cigarette,” it said, adding that it was confident that the ruling would be quashed on appeal.

This is the latest chapter in an increasingly acrimonious battle between those selling conventional tobacco cigarettes and battery powered electronic cigarettes, which release vapour.

It comes after the European Parliament recently ruled that e cigarettes were not in fact medicinal and could therefore remain on open sale, not just in tobacconists.

There are an estimated 1.5 million users of e cigarettes in France and almost one in five French adults has tried the device, according to a recent poll.

Eu goes menthol – telegraph blogs

Discount cigarettes – hayward, ca
Bruno Waterfield has been the Brussels correspondent for the Telegraph since 2007. He has been reporting on politics and European affairs for over 13 years, first from Westminster and then from Brussels since January 2003. EU goes menthol

By Bruno Waterfield Last updated July 2nd, 2013

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By seeking to ban menthol cigarettes the European Union is making a virtue of discrimination and is enshrining inequality before the law.

Tonio Borg, the EU health commisisoner, proposes a “menthol” tobacco products directive
(photo European Commission)

The ban is one element of a whole package of bad legislation tabled by the European Commission last December in the form of the Tobacco Products Directive here s a flavour.

Meeting 10 days ago, EU health ministers, including Britain’s Jeremy Hunt, agreed with the commission to legislate a ban on the use of cigarettes and roll your own tobacco with characterising flavours such as fruit flavours, chocolate or menthol .

This is to make sure that tobacco products taste and smell like tobacco products, the ministers agreed.

Here there is a prejudice (quite an absurd one) that a smoker might not realise that she was smoking tobacco if she was puffing away on a menthol cig, with the assumption that young people are particularly stupid in this regard.

The staff document, accompanying the directive last December, makes this prejudice explicit. It expresses the mistaken belief that children are drawn to experiment with smoking because they think cigarettes are a form of candy rather than understanding that tobacco’s appeal is a rebel and adult cachet. There are already plenty of sensible laws prohibiting tobacco sales to children

The use of ingredients for aromatic purposes also raises the issue that they may make tobacco products more attractive to young people and children in particular. Fowles et al., in a study of the chemical factors influencing the addictiveness and attractiveness of cigarettes in New Zealand, examined the use of flavourings such as fruit extracts and sweeteners in cigarettes and argue that since children are well known to seek out sweet tasting foods it is not unreasonable to assume that any added sweetness in tobacco smoke would be received favourably by the child experimenting with smoking , the document argues.

Underlining the prejudice against menthol and explicitly discriminating against young people , the legislation goes on to exempt pipe tobacco, which is also given characterising flavours , because it is used by older consumers . Seriously. This is an explicitly stated goal for the law.

The proposal exempts tobacco products other than cigarettes, roll your own tobacco and smokeless tobacco products, i.e. cigars, cigarillos and pipe tobacco from some provisions such as the prohibition of products with characterising flavours. This exemption is justified considering that these products are mainly consumed by older consumers, while the focus of this proposal is to regulate tobacco products in such a way as they do not encourage young people to start using tobacco. The exemption shall be removed if there is a substantial change of circumstances (in terms of sales volume or prevalence level among young people), says the directive.

If cigarettes are to be banned (and I don’t think they should be) then prohibition should be for everyone, young and old alike. Should freedom, in this case to smoke a menthol cigarette, be restricted for everyone because of (prejudiced) assumptions about what “young people” might do with it? Isn’t it grossly patronising to assume “young people” are so infantile that they are in special need of protection by EU officialdom?

In this case, the full weight of coercive law will be used to ban a product solely because it might be appealing to young people. A similar product will be exempted because in the prejudiced world view of EU officialdom only old people use it. That exemption will be removed if young people take up the pipe. This is open discrimination.

Public health law, and the coercive apparatus of the state, will be used to modify the behaviour of the young but not the old. This is law that openly has discrimination as its goal and that enshrines inequality as a legislative good or principle.

This is bad law. Bonkers menthol.

Tags bans, EU, menthol ban, nannying, scaremongering, smoking

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