The following is a guest article written by Mark. As always, the opinions of guests are their own. If you want to share your own opinion, I welcome you with open arms.
Recently the French tobacco industry ignited a battle with its electronic cigarette counterpart which ended up in the French courts. While initially this move by French tobacconists, who are regulated by the French government to sell tobacco products, received very little in the way of news coverage, this has all changed with the French court ruling!
In simple terms the French courts have handed the French electronic cigarette industry over to its tobacco cigarette counterpart. Under the ruling, which has been appealed by various parties, only regulated French tobacconists will be able to sell electronic cigarettes in the future even though the product does not actually contain tobacco. So, what does this ruling mean for the FDA and indeed the European Parliament?
Have the French courts jumped the gun?
The very fact that the European Commission is allegedly attempting to influence the European Parliament to introduce more regulations, despite deciding against this just a few weeks ago, makes the French court ruling even more surprising. Many courts would have held back from an initial ruling until the European Parliament/European Commission had come to an agreement on the issue. There are now claims that the French government, via the French courts, is placing undue pressure on the European Parliament and possibly the Food and Drug Administration in the US.
There has been a monumental backlash from electronic cigarette users across Europe as well as electronic cigarette manufacturers and retailers who were caught offguard and we have a major battle on our hands. Time and time again regulators have tried a number of means to halt the exponential growth in electronic cigarette sales only to be thwarted by voters, “sensible rulings” and in the case of the FDA, just a few years ago, the courts.
Is this the start of a major crackdown on electronic cigarettes?
In many ways it depends on which side of the fence you sit on with regards to your opinion about the future regulation of electronic cigarettes. If you read the mass media, which is certainly being influenced by lobby groups, you may be forgiven for believing that the electronic cigarette industry is something of a “Wild West” market with little or no regulation. The fact remains that the sale of electronic cigarettes is covered by general retail regulations in relation to the standard of products and how they are sold. It is also worthwhile noting that no responsible electronic cigarette retailer or manufacturer has any issue with further medical trials or indeed in keeping electronic cigarettes out of the hands of minors.
The regulators and various biased parties around the world have used the alleged sale of cigarettes to minors as a reason for further regulation although there is no real evidence to back this up. Indeed even a number of those fighting for further regulation of electronic cigarettes readily admit that at the very worst they are “less harmful” than their tobacco counterparts. Indeed some health experts have been quoted as suggesting they are 99% less harmful than their tobacco cigarette counterparts.
Is this all about the money?
Whether or not the French court ruling has any connection with the enormous amount of money which tobacco cigarette sales bring for the French government is debatable. However, it is worth noting that when the electronic cigarette industry was seen as “a niche market” compared to the $750 billion worldwide tobacco cigarette market there were few regulators, few governments and few critics quoted in the press.
Now that the industry is expected to top sales in excess of $3 billion during 2013, with the US market alone expected to be worth around $1 billion, it seems that every regulator, every government and every critic of electronic cigarettes is up in arms. In theory the French court ruling should have no impact upon the European Commission/European Parliament, or indeed the FDA, but this is politics. It is also worth noting that if regulators, governments and critics around the world were looking to silence electronic cigarette supporters with the latest moves, this has backfired in a big way.
The ongoing regulatory issues have brought together an array of electronic cigarette support groups, electronic cigarette users, manufacturers and retailers. We are now set for a battle royal for the right to sell electronic cigarettes within Europe and around the world. Watch this space!