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Austrians still love to smoke

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File photo: APA
14:45 CEST+02:00
Austrians loathe giving up cigarettes and the statistics prove this out. According to Mr. Zoltán Massay-Kosubek, the Policy Coordinator at the European Public Health Alliance, Austrians are smoking more than ever before, an increase driven mainly by younger smokers entering the market.

One reason for this may be because Austria is one of the last EU countries where the minimum age for purchasing tobacco is 16 years of age. In 2006, state revenues from sales to minors amounted to €60.5 billion -- a breath-taking sum of money.

But why is Austria lagging behind the rest of Europe in getting people to quit smoking?  Massay-Kosubek of the EPHA told The Local that there are “two main causes of the alarming smoking prevalence in Austria: one the inappropriate enforcement of existing anti-tobacco legislation and two, the lack of ambition as regards regulating tobacco and smoking."

Are state revenues a contributing factor to the glacial slowness to establish policies and legal directives to protect the health of Austrians?

Massay-Kosubek thinks that Austrian citizens deserve protection from their state and that with a clever state revenue policy Austria can both increase its state revenues and protect the health of its citizens. And this means increasing taxes on cigarettes.

The latest evidence and World Health Organisation (WHO) data show that increasing tobacco taxes is an efficient way to fight the tobacco epidemic. The EPHA thinks it would be appropriate to use at least some of the tax revenue generated to support cessation, public education and other smoking prevention measures.

While packaging tobacco products with pictures depicting the outcome of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases caused by tobacco consumption has been helpful in dissuading people to quit, emerging evidence gives credence to rise of the e-cigarette in helping millions of smokers become non-smokers.


e-Cigarettes may be the answer to stopping smoking.  Photo: NikoBlue

Could the e-cigarettes be the answer? Mr. Massay-Kosubek thinks so: “E-cigarettes have a huge potential to fight the tobacco epidemic and a carefully regulated e-cigarette market can help smokers to free themselves from that deadly habit."

"Current data show that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than conventional tobacco and although there are fears concerning their gate-way effect and that they can re-normalize smoking there is no convincing evidence on that either.”

The Physicians News Digest concurs, claiming that the growing mountain of scientific and empirical evidence consistently indicates that electronic cigarettes are 99 percent less hazardous than cigarettes. E-cigarettes have been found to pose negligible risks to nonusers.

So why is the Austrian Health Minister Sabine Oberhauser wanting not to ban just tobacco cigarettes, but also e-cigarettes and Shishas from restaurants and bars? This would seem rather counter-productive in helping millions of Austrians kick their tobacco dependence as the evidence shows.

Findings show that roughly one million smokers quit smoking tobacco products by switching to e-cigarettes. In the past five years, e-cigarettes have replaced about one billion packs of cigarettes in the USA, and have been found to be more effective than FDA approved nicotine gums, lozenges, patches and inhalers for smoking cessation. No evidence has been found that e-cigarettes create nicotine dependence.

Perhaps the most overlooked outcome of e-cigarettes is how they have further de-normalized cigarette smoking.

E-cigarettes have a high rate of success in moving smokers away from tobacco. The smoker gets some nicotine and the feeling of smoking without inhaling any tar or actual smoke. For example: at the NikoBlue store at Schwedenplatz, they offer nicotine doses in varying degrees, where the smoker may begin with 0.08 nicotine and move to 0.06, 0.03, and lastly to zero.

Could the e-cigarette be the answer to tobacco cessation? Officially, time and studies will tell, but unofficially the folks at nikoBlue are experiencing customer after customer telling them – we don’t smoke tobacco cigarettes anymore – thank you!

Currently in Austria, fewer than two smokers in five (37 percent) have tried to stop smoking making Austria one of the worst countries for successful smoker cessation in the EU. The prevalence of lung cancer is also high in Austria. At this point, any success offered should be success well received.


 

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