Disposables Ban: The French Perspective

The UK is set to ban the import and sale of single-use vaping products following an announcement by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The ban mirrors one being put in place by French authorities, and SOVAPE, a consumer advocacy group in France, has conducted an analysis to see what the impacts might be.

The French Senate rubber stamped their Bill to ban the import and sale of disposable single-use vape products in December. Of large concern to French vapers and their largest advocacy organisation, the politicians failed to conduct an impact study to work out what could and would happen if a ban was enacted.

As it stands, disposable single-use vape products will be banned in France from the end of 2026.

Relative harm reduction
In France, 15 million people say they smoke, while 13 million say they smoke every day. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the country, which means smoking takes 75,000 lives a year.
The UK has under half of France’s number of smokers – 6.4 million – but the death toll is roughly the same at 76,000 people.
Unlike vaping in England, nothing by way of reliable data exists for vaping in France. SOVAPE estimates it as being between one to two million people. In 2022, the Office for National Statistics said 4.5 million adults in Great Britain used vaping products.

Like health bodies and smoking cessation experts in the UK, SOVAPE believes vaping works excellently as a stop smoking tool – and helps to stop ex-smokers from returning to tobacco products – while offering a huge reduction in the risk of harm.

SOVAPE points to the annual scientific assessments carried out by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID – formerly Public Health England) since 2015, which have all concluded that vaping represents a risk reduction of at least 95% compared to smoking.

The successful way to quit smoking
Again, the French organisation looks across La Manche to the UK when it comes to clinical studies. Referring to the ongoing findings of the Cochrane living review, which states:

·People are more likely to stop smoking for at least six months using nicotine e-cigarettes than using nicotine replacement therapy
·People are more likely to stop smoking for at least six months using nicotine e-cigarettes than using nicotine replacement therapy
·Nicotine e-cigarettes may help more people to stop smoking than no support or behavioural support only
·Low numbers of unwanted effects were reported and those were limited to throat or mouth irritation, headache, cough and feeling sick

At a population level
Public Health France has reported to the European Union that 870,000 ex-smokers declared that vaping helped them quit smoking in 2017, making switching to vaping the most popular means of quitting smoking.
SOVAPE says that the period when disposable vapes boomed in the country maps to the only period that saw a significant and sustained drop in the rate of smokers in France in the 21st century. The advocacy organisation’s own survey showed that 38% of participants had become non-smokers at 5 months, making them approximately 10 times more likely to quit smoking than other methods.

The benefits of disposables to smokers
With the lack of French research, SOVAPE turned to a paper produced by the Department of Behavioural Science and Health at University College London – which identified that a ban will have an impact on 2.6 million vapers in Great Britain, “greatest among young people, including the 316,000 18-24 year-olds who currently use disposables”.
In addition, “a ban would also affect 1.2 million people who currently smoke and a further 744,000 who previously smoked. It would also have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged groups that have higher rates of smoking and typically find it harder to quit.”

Disposable use in France
SOVAPE says single-use disposable ecigs are mainly used by those on low incomes because of the affordable price – although it does mean a higher expense if used over a long period of time compared to other types of vape products.

The impact of a French ban
SOVAPE states: “Conservatively and cautiously, we estimate that the ban on [disposables] will lead to the smoking relapse of at least 300,000 to 500,000 people and an increase in the number of cigarettes smoked by 300,000 to 500,000 people currently using [disposables]to reduce smoking.”
The organisation says that it and Fivape, another consumer group, have warned the French government about the potential impact and have jointly voiced their concerns that moves are afoot to ban disposables and eliquid flavours – and yet allow cigarettes to remain on sale.

SOVAPE says France should enforce existing laws to prevent sales to minors rather than introduce bans, that a proper impact study should be conducted, and that politicians should consider the impact on adult smokers and ex-smokers.

Relating France to Great Britain
The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) conducted research last year which asked 2,000 adult vapers what they think they might do following a ban on disposable e-cigarettes and a restriction on flavours to just four profiles – mint, menthol, tobacco and fruit.
IBVTA said: “38% of regular smokers and recent ex-smokers that have used vaping to reduce or fully quit smoking would either smoke more cigarettes, switch back to smoking or purchase illegal vapes. This equates to more than 1 million adult smokers and recent ex-smokers (quit less than 5 years ago).

“IBVTA member commissioned research by Opinium of 6,000 UK adults in November 2023 revealed that 59% of adult vapers believe that having a range of flavours helps them to reduce their smoking or from going back to smoking.

“IBVTA member commissioned research by Opinium of 6,000 UK adults in August 2023 showed that 72% of ex-smokers (who quit in the past 5 years) and 56% of smokers believe single-use devices are helpful in assisting individuals to reduce their smoking levels.”

What this doesn’t consider
IBVTA and SOVAPE’s surveys took place at the turn of the year. As we reported two weeks ago, disposable manufacturers are turning around their business models very swiftly – having identified modular designs and pod systems as a way forward. So, while risks associated with bans may remain, their impact looks like it will be drastically reduced through product innovation.