France sets out plan to ban disposable vapes
France is preparing to prohibit the use of single-use e-cigarettes, locally referred to as “puffs,” due to the risks they pose to both the environment and public health.
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, speaking recently on RTL radio, announced this measure as part of a new government anti-smoking initiative.
Campaigners anticipate its implementation by the end of the year. Several other European nations, such as Germany, Belgium, and Ireland, have also declared intentions to implement similar bans, with the UK reportedly contemplating a similar move.
Disposable vapes, available for purchase at tobacco shops in France, typically cost around €9 (£7.70) per unit, making them a cheaper alternative to a 20-cigarette pack.
These devices are designed to provide approximately 600 puffs, roughly equivalent to smoking 40 traditional cigarettes. However, France’s National Academy of Medicine has criticized them as a “covert danger for young people and adolescents.”
According to Élisabeth Borne, “They create a reflex, a gesture, which children get used to, and then end up being drawn to tobacco”.
Campaigners accuse manufacturers – many based in China – of deliberately targeting teenagers, using bright colors and a range of flavors reminiscent of the sweet shop, for example, marshmallows, chocolate and hazelnut, watermelon, and ice candy.
According to the Alliance Against Tobacco (ACT), 13% of 13-16-year-olds have tried “puffs” at least once. Most say they started around the ages of 11 or 12.
“[The ban] is a great victory for civil society. These disposable e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway to smoking for young people,” says ACT president Loïc Josseran.
“It’s become an epidemic. It is terrible how the tobacco industry has set out to hook children.”
Sam, a 16-year-old Paris schoolboy, said he began smoking disposable e-cigarettes two years ago, shortly after they first appeared in France.
“They were talking about it a lot on TikTok. It was like a trend. And I thought, yeah why not?
“They’re colorful, and in my head, they are not as dangerous as tobacco. My favorites are iced grapes and apricots. I guess if the ban goes ahead, I will start buying regular vapes.”
In theory, it is not possible to buy “puffs” if you are under the age of 18, but Sam said it was easy to evade the restriction. According to ACT, tobacconists systematically refrain from asking for proof of age.
Campaigners have also highlighted the ecological damage caused by disposable e-cigarettes. In the UK, a study last year by the environmental organization Material Focus found that more than one million devices were being thrown out every week.
“It’s an environmental plague,” a group of French doctors and environmentalists wrote in Le Monde newspaper earlier this year.
They said each disposable e-cigarette was made of plastic and contained a non-removable battery with around 0.15 grams of lithium, as well as nicotine salts and traces of heavy metals.