Legal firm Spinosi and Elder has been contracted by SOVAPE, Federation Addiction, RESPADD, SOS Addictions and Tobacco & Freedom to challenge the French interpretation and implementation of the TPD. The legislation proposes that any contravention of the new law, through illegal promotion or advertising, will be punishable by a fine of up to 100,000 euros.
The legislation highlights how there is a disconnect between what governmental departments are saying and what the TPD is compelling countries to do. Just last week, we reported the Tabac Info Service, run by Public Health France, saying: “according to the latest work of the High Council on Public Health, electronic cigarettes can constitute a tool to help stop or reduce consumption of tobacco” and also “reduces the risk of developing serious illnesses such as cancer”. It went on to add that vaping devices: “are much less harmful than traditional cigarettes". How are these statements served or supported by a ban on companies sharing the sentiments with their customers?
The legal action points out that SOVAPE’s stated aims are "to act and interact with authorities, health professionals, associations, economic actors, the media and public opinion to defend the reduction of risks and the dangers of smoking,” in accordance with the new (quoted above) public policy. The legal document includes reference to the other associations’ articles of constitution, mirroring the conflict they also face.
In their challenge, the lawyers make reference to Article 11 of the Declaration of Human Rights & The Citizen – where it states: “The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the rights the most precious of Man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, publish freely, except to respond to the abuse of this freedom in the cases determined by law.”
The associations contest that, at this moment in time, no scientific evidence exists to prove “that the use of the electronic cigarette is a risk proven to the health of the user or others and justifies measures of such general prohibition.”
The argument goes that promotion and advertising constitutes free speech under Article 11, and that includes the five associations right to promote harm reduction. They dispute the ban on advertising and promotion as the removal of free speech can only be carried out in this case for reasons of protecting the health of the general public – something that is clearly not the case and runs counter to both evidence and the health department’s position on vaping.
A crowd-funding campaign is due to commence in September to support the legal challenge, we will bring you further details then as it could pull the rug out from under the TPD if successful.