TOBACCONISTS in France are claiming a legal victory that could prevent growing competition from shops selling electronic cigarettes.
A court in Toulouse has found an e-cigarette retailer guilty of unfair competition, following a complaint from the owner of a nearby tabac, and ordered to stop trading.
The retailer, Esmokeclean, says it will appeal against the judgment, which its lawyer described as "completely absurd".
The ruling could set a legal precedent and give France's 27,000 tobacconists the legal grounds to maintain their monopoly on the sale of products for smoking.
There are an estimated 300 shops in France specialising in the sale of e-cigarettes and the market is forecast to double in size this year to €100 million.
A campaign group representing the e-cigarette market says up to 2,500 jobs are at risk if the court of appeal upholds the ban on trading from physical premises.
Health minister Marisol Touraine wants electronic cigarettes to be banned in public spaces - as well as a ban on advertising them.