Will France seal the fate of the disposable vape? With the government weighing up a ban, and controversial vaping claims made by the Health Minister, Claude Bamberger brings us the latest info on France's battle with vaping.
Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak, this is GFN News on GFN.TV.
The French government may ban disposable e-cigarettes, which are popular mainly among teenagers.
François Brown, the Health Minister, has recently said, I'm in favour of banning e-cigarettes
– pubs – because they are bringing a young part of our population to smoking.
What will be the next step of the French government?
Joining us today to discuss the vaping and smoking situation in France is Claude Bamberger,
President of the French Independent Association of Electronic Cigarette Users.
Hello Claude, it's good to see you on the programme.
Could you briefly summarise the rules on smoking and vaping in France?
Yes, and it's something important because it differs, not that much, but it differs
from some countries because it's linked to other regulations in France.
So, beginning with smoking, selling cigarettes or any tobacco in any form to people, to minors
globally, and the majority in France is 18, so cigarettes, alcohol, pornography, all those
are regulated, it shouldn't be sold, so there are laws, and for tobacco and alcohol it went
There was a first version and then the actual version is quite standard.
It's an important thing to remember that it's not forbidden for minors to smoke, it's forbidden
to sell cigarettes to them.
We've got plain packaging, we did nothing but we've got it.
We don't have ads on, it has been for a long time now, so you don't have any ads for tobacco
in any form in newspapers, in the media, in the streets, including in the shops.
Another thing, it's quite specific to France, tobacco is sold, has been sold, as long as
I was there, it's sold by authorized shops, by private customs officers, so the people
selling tobacco have a contract with the customs, they are officers of the customs, but they
are private people, so basically it's a group of, you go to these shops to buy tobacco,
basically they also sell other things, often they sell magazines, newspapers, some of them
also are bars, on the bar restaurants as well, it's very specific.
And they sell to minors a lot, last statistics was 70% of them sold to minors down to 12
Concerning smokers, it's forbidden to smoke in collective indoor spaces, it has been like
that for I think 20-40 years now, so in the office, in any companies, in indoor space
it's forbidden, in public spaces as well, like restaurants or movies, there are now
some open spaces that are forbidden to smoke in, like schools, parks, some sports stadiums,
and that's increasing.
We have had campaigns against smoking for decades, and now, let's see, it has been 10-15
years now, we've got campaigns to quit smoking, they are shifting the message, which is good.
We've got a steep tax increase in the last decade, from around 7 euros a pack of cigarettes
when I quit, I remember it was around 7, it was already going up from 5 in the 5 years
before, but now a pack of cigarettes is between 10 and 11 euros.
So basically we are in this price issue, for tobacco we are leading in the price, the current
Europe without the UK, basically it's the most expensive cigarettes in Europe, not at
all the lowest smoking rate.
Smoking is quite different, it's also forbidden to sell to minors, but it can be sold by anybody,
in a specialist shop of course, those shops selling tobacco also often sell vaping products
now, they didn't at the beginning, now most of them do, but you can also sell vaping products
in a supermarket if you want.
It's not often seen, but in smaller supermarkets sometimes, in supermarkets with other products,
they try to do that sometimes.
Smokers are forbidden except in shops, physical or online, it's forbidden in planes, trains,
buses, everything that moves, where there are people, and in collective offices, like
if you work in an open space, you can't vape legally, but if you work in an individual
office, you can vape.
How many French people smoke and vape?
We are the champions, we are leading Europe in smoking, basically, we can say in 2023,
we probably are around 15 million, the scale, Francis, is 55 million adults, 67 million
inhabitants, so we've got 15 million smokers, including 30 million daily adult smokers,
which is around 30%.
I say that because of the accuracy of the stats, of the trends around those figures,
which is 30% smokers, 25% daily smokers.
The daily smokers is going down really fast these recent years, this decade, it was really
stable and the smokers percentage is really, really stable, it has been 30% in the 90s,
and it's 30% now, but less and less daily smokers, it's really very new in France, the
daily smokers are going down in the last decade.
The other thing which is going down is the smoking rate at 17 years old, we don't measure
minors with adults, the last statistics was 15% down from 25, so in a decade, it went
down from 25 to 50, it's huge, and it's a continuous falling of smoking rates in teens.
We now have around 2.2 million new ex-smokers in the last decade, so basically, it's a very
complicated issue, counting smokers, because you get people coming in, people going out,
we spent years with people quitting smoking, but coming back, so the figures didn't change
for nearly 10, 20 years, it was going slightly down, they were smoking less cigarettes, but
the figures, the smokers figures didn't change, even the daily smokers didn't change a lot.
We've got a lot of generational issues, because basically, men are smoking less and less,
and we already measure steep decrease in lung cancers in men, but at the same time, women,
and let's say 30 to 50 years old women are going up in smoking.
So basically, we have more and more women smoking, it's nearly equality now.
In the same time, we've got, let's say, some figures differ, but we've got around 3 million
regular vapors, it's the difficult thing with vaping, I prefer to remove experimenters,
because it really depends on the trends, but we've got 3 million regular vapors, and they
are not the same people every year, it's a movement, it includes around 1 million exclusive
vapors, regular or exclusive vapors, plus 1 million ex-vapors, still ex-smokers.
So basically, in the last decade, there is a sweep, we've got people beginning to vape,
some of them go back to smoking, it happens of course, but some of them become exclusive
vapors, some exclusive vapors become ex-vapors, ex-smokers, and keep being ex-smokers, which
is a really new thing.
Basically, you've got 2 million new ex-smokers, 2 million ex-vapors or vapors, but who don't
smoke? It's a huge change.
The French Health Minister said that disposable vapes were very popular with youth and that
they should be banned. Why are these devices so popular among young people?
Let's begin by the new Health Minister, because the one before him was a supporter of vaping,
not allowed in his actions, but in real life. The thing is, he's saying something that is
said by some people, some activists. For the moment, you see teens in high school mainly,
you see teens vaping, and they've been vaping for quite a time in France, but it's going
up with puffs. They were smoking the year before, and they are not the main buyers of
puffs in France, not sure in other countries, but they are not. Basically, when you count
how many people buy how many items, they probably are not the most important population. Basically,
they are certainly not the most important client in money. That's the first thing. The
Health Minister is focusing on young smokers using puffs, using vapes. Young people in
general are trying on the puffs of their friends or things like that, of course, mostly trying.
The thing is, they are still 5% regular vapers at 17 years old, at the end of high school,
which is not at all the 15% that are smoking, which is not at all the 25% that were smoking
some years before. Basically, regular vapers with puffs or without are mostly ex-smokers
or smokers. The percentage, and it has been for 10 years, the percentage of teens, regular
vapers who never smoked is 0%, and has never been anything less than 0% in France, meaning
less than 1%.
And what do you think about the Minister's proposal?
It's a complex thing. It's a really complex thing. The thing is, this Minister is just
listening to people we know quite well that are relentless. We've the same thought for
a decade without any proof. They just, yeah, we risk that, and we risk people smoking more.
Yeah, but they don't smoke more, they smoke less. Yeah, but we risk this thing and that
thing, and now they are fighting for nicotine addiction, which is a lifetime horrible thing.
I don't remember, it was horrible. The thing which is horrible is the consequences of smoking
not using nicotine. So he's listening to it because he doesn't care. It's sad to say that
of your health ministry, but he doesn't care about smoking at all.
The more horrible thing is the whole government program on public health, on health care in
general is based on prevention. The same Minister didn't know the number of people dying because
of smoking every year in France. He didn't know. It means he doesn't have any interest
in the subject, which is the first cause of avoidable death in France. He doesn't care.
He basically cares about money, and that's an important subject in health care. And he
has many, many issues with money in health care in France. I think the public part of
health care was nearly going down economically before COVID with hundreds of billions of
euros that just made it stay up. But we still have many, many issues in health care. And
now we've got issues with private health professionals that are asking for more money.
You don't change our prices because the prices are fixed by the state. You haven't changed
our prices for more than a decade. So basically, you've got public health professional and
private health professional nearly in the brink of... They don't do real strikes. They
continue to work on strikes, but it's a big issue. So basically, I think the money is
the main issue. And smoking in France is paying a lot of money to the health care budget.
Currently, it's around 17 billion.
Thank you, Claude. Looking forward to seeing you in Warsaw this June. That's all for today.
Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our GFN TV podcast. And don't forget to register
for the Global Forum on Nicotine conference taking place in Warsaw from the 21st to 24th
of June. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.