Photo: APA (Archiv/epa)
E-cigarettes and related products will in future be sold in Austria only in tobacconists. This was announced on Thursday by the Ministry of Health. There is a corresponding amendment to the Tobacco Monopoly Law being sent to the National Council for review. The amendment is expected to lead to a preventive effect.
According to the amendment, electronic cigarettes, including e-shisha as well as "nicotine-containing and other flavored or non-flavored liquids that can be vaporized in electronic cigarettes and refills" may in future only be sold at registered tobacco shops.
The new law regulates the distribution of such products, emphasizing that they "are not toys." Critics believe that the measure is because the new generation of e-cigarettes and vaping requisites is much more attractive to children, and the health ministry is attempting to reduce the health effects related to cigarette smoking, thinking that vaping is a gateway to greater tobacco use.
In February, the European Parliament passed regulations requiring standardization and quality control for liquids and vaporizers, disclosure of ingredients in liquids, and child-proofing and tamper-proofing for liquid packaging.
In July, The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report recommending governments ban the use of electronic cigarettes indoors, manufacturers be restricted from claiming e-cigarettes aid smoking cessation until they have robust evidence to validate the claim, prohibit sales to people under 18, and ban the use of vending machines.
"The harm outweighs the benefits – and so advertising, marketing, sponsorship, and sales of e-cigarettes should come with a warning and be regulated as rigorously as cigarettes,” preventative medicine specialist and anti-smoking activist Manfred Neuberger said.
However, researchers from University College London recently said that warnings over e-cigarettes are alarmist – and increasing their use could save many lives. The researchers and Clive Bates, former director of ASH UK, stated that electronic cigarettes use has been growing rapidly and that no proof of serious health risks has emerged, and asserted that misguided regulatory action could interfere with a safe substitute for smoking.
When contacted for comment, a representative of the Ministry of Health said they had acted due to concerns over school-age children who were buying the e-cigarettes and smoking them in schools.
The owner of a popular e-cigarette store told The Local that Austrian tobacconists lack the experience, knowledge and room for the wide range of vaping products and flavours to be able to handle the products, and would lack the incentive to help wean regular smokers off tobacco.
"The e-Cigarette business in the EU is way too big to regulate at this stage. With more than 50 vaping stores in Austria, such a regulation is unlikely to be enforced. The argument isn't about people's health — it's the tobacco monopoly looking after its revenues and government taxes," she said.
A Facebook group has been created in Austria which is calling for a demonstration by vapers against the new regulation on October 25th at 2:30 pm in front of the Parliament.