The French government have announced plans to ban disposable vapes, with the Prime Minister citing the 'gateway effect' of vapes leading young people to smoke.
In this episode, Will Godfrey debunks outdated notions around the gateway effect, and the reaction of THR experts to this ban.
Chapters:0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak 0:24 - France plans disposable vape ban 1:57 - THR activists react with dismay 3:24 - Vape bans predicted across Western Europe 3:45 - Closing remarks
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Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. In today's programme, Will Godfrey of Filter will be discussing France's plan to ban disposable vapes. Hello Will. What has the French government announced and what justifications are they giving?
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Will Godfrey: Hi Joanna. Yes, earlier this month they announced their intention to ban single-use vapes by the end of the year, as Kiran Sidhu reported for Filter. It's weirdly framed as part of a new national plan to fight against smoking. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne elaborated on this when she slammed puffs, as they're known in France, for giving bad habits to young people. They create a reflex, a gesture, she continued, which children get used to and then end up being drawn to tobacco. Yes, we're back with the "gateway theory", according to which people tend to move from vaping to smoking rather, than the other way around. Population-level evidence says no. As Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, for example, noted in the International Journal of Drug Policy and in Filter this year, rises in youth vaping in the US, UK, and New Zealand have been accompanied by an accelerated decline in youth smoking. "If there is a small 'gateway effect' for some youth", he wrote, "it is certainly outweighed by a much larger number moving from smoking to vaping." Common factors that predispose youth to both vaping and smoking muddy the issue in many minds. Environmental impact is another concern with single-use vapes, and we've previously discussed suggestions for how this can be mitigated.
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Joanna Junak: And how have tobacco harm reduction advocates reacted?
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Will Godfrey: Mostly with dismay. While some suggest adults just move on to more sustainable pod or refillable vaping options, many others note that disposables are a uniquely low-cost, low-barrier option, particularly for people who are just starting to switch from cigarettes. Claude Bamberger, for example, a Parisian who smoked for 20 years, told Kiran how he forgot to smoke over the course of one weekend after trying disposables. He became a THR advocate as a result. France, by the way, has a notably high smoking rate for Western Europe. Philippe Poirson of the THR association - Sovape, protested that the French government has produced no data to support its decision, resulting in a gateway story being repeated "without basis". Many predict that an illicit "puffs" market with no consumer protections will now flourish. "When you ban a product people want", said Michael Landel of the World Vapers Alliance, "all you're doing is moving the supply from regulated markets to illicit markets, and that's a terrible outcome for public health." Returning to youth and the so-called "common liability" for vaping and smoking, UK advocate Clive Bates urged, however uncomfortable it may be, we have to acknowledge that harm reduction can start before the age of 18.
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Joanna Junak: What is the international context of this move?
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Will Godfrey: It's become something of a trend in Western Europe, particularly. Germany, Belgium and Ireland have all announced similar bans and the UK seems poised to do the same. That's an awful lot of people who smoke who will soon have fewer paths to quitting.
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Joanna Junak: Thank you Will. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.