Electronic Cigarette Popularity Raises Controversy in France

Woman smoking outside a café in Paris.Photo: luigi morante at flickr.com

Woman smoking outside a café in Paris.
Photo: Flickr.com/luigi morante

In May 2011, the previous French Agency for Safety of Health Products (ANSM) recommended that the public stay away from the newly popular electronic cigarettes. Pharmacies had not officially secured the right to sell them, and the electronic cigarette was only available through some special businesses and online. That is not enough to dissuade many customers.

This product was developed in response to the smoking ban that applied in all public places, and served as an alternative to the classic cigarette, of which it mirrored the appearance. At the end is a pretend diode that mimics combustion and contains a cartridge with solution. The solution is warmed as the user breathes to produce a vapor, which the user then inhales. The vials of “e-liquids,” solutions containing propylene glycol or glycerol that come in a variety of aromas and may contain nicotine, can be recharged. While the cigarettes do not contain tobacco, it is still not clear whether or not they are any safer than traditional cigarettes.

There are many concerns surrounding this new product, with one of the major ones being that no authorization has been given to put these devices on the market, as claimed by the worried ANSM. Marisol Touraine, the French Minister of Health, is equally concerned. She has asked for an investigation on the effects of the electronic cigarette. On March 5, she expressed her worries and questions: “I have asked for my services to tell me very precisely what type of product this is: can it be considered a product of grand consumption? Is it a medical device? What are the characteristics of this product?”

The electronic cigarette “is consumed by hundreds of thousands of French. One must be cautious,” affirmed Touraine. “We must evaluate the benefits/risks of this device that poses a certain number of questions.” In a letter addressed to the president of the UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents) group in the French Senate, the senator Chantal Jouanno asked for the opening of a parliamentary mission to collect information. She underlines that “many questions have been posed…as to the marketing…in terms of the health impacts” for the electronic cigarette. In the meantime, it continues to maintain a loyal following.


  1. […] the questions about the health risks of these cigarettes, Touraine and the health authorities are faced with the fact that, despite a regular drop in the […]

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