France severely curtailed the sale of nicotine products on Friday after a study suggested smokers may be less likely to contract COVID-19.
The decree, issued by the Ministry of Health, limits pharmacies from selling more than a one-month supply of any nicotine products aimed at curbing dependence to cigarettes. Each sale is to be logged by pharmacies whether the buyer had a doctor's prescription or not.
Online sale has meanwhile been completely banned.
The measures were taken to "prevent the health risk linked to the excessive consumption or misuse" of nicotine products by people hoping to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus and "to guarantee the continuous supply for people requiring medication to stop smoking," the decree states.
It comes just days after a study by the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris flagged "that current smoking status appears to be a protective factor against the infection by SARS-CoV-2".
It noted that "compared to the French general population, the Covid-19 population exhibited a significantly weaker current daily smoker rate by 80.3 % for outpatients and by 75.4 % for inpatients" and theorised that "nicotine may be suggested as a potential preventive agent against Covid-19 infection."
The hospital now plans to trial the use of nicotine patches or other products on hospitalised COVID-19 patients and in the general population to test its efficiency against the virus.
"One should not forget that nicotine is a drug of abuse responsible for smoking addiction. Smoking has severe pathological consequences and remains a serious danger for health," it warned.
France has suffered greatly from the pandemic with 22,245 deaths recorded in hospitals and care homes since the beginning of the outbreak — the fourth highest tally in the world as of April 24.
Last month, the country's health authorities called on doctors to not prescribe hydroxychloroquine for suspected cases of COVID-19 after a study suggested it could be a potential treatment for the virus over fears that shortages could endanger the lives of people reliant on the drug.