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Austrian Government to Limit Sale of E-Cigarettes to Tobacco Shops

Electronic cigarettes and all related products in Austria will only be sold in specialized tobacco shops, the country’s Ministry of Health announced on Thursday. The recently-announced measure is apparently designed to have a preventive effect.

e-cigarettesThe new rules have been included in an amendment to the Tobacco Monopoly Law that will be sent to the National Council for review, The Local reports. According to the new law, electronic cigarettes, as well as “nicotine-containing and other flavored or non-flavored liquids that can be vaporized in electronic cigarettes and refills”, will only be sold at specialized tobacco shops across Austria.

When contacted for comment, a representative of the Ministry of Health said the measure was prompted by concerns that school-children were buying electronic cigarettes and using them in schools. That sounds very alarming indeed, but, conveniently, they mention no actual evidence that this issue is occurring on such a level that would justify this kind of drastic action.

E-cigarette critics in Austria also believe the measure was necessary because the new generation of electronic cigarettes and vaping supplies is much more appealing to children. They argue that the Ministry of Health is thus attempting to reduce the impact of SMOKING on public health, thinking that electronic cigarettes act as a gateway to smoking.

It seems that no matter how much scientific evidence we have that e-cigarette use does not lead to smoking, e-cigarette opponents never get tired of using this bogus argument. In a recent editorial published in the British Journal of General Practice, Professor Robert West, of University College London, said that “current e-cigarette use in young never-smokers is so rare that we cannot even test the idea that it could act as a gateway.”

Another study conducted last month by UK anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found no evidence that e-cigarettes push children to smoking. “The use in young people is very low – there’s a growing level of experimentation but it doesn’t seem to be translating into large numbers of people using them. We’re just not seeing kids who have never smoked taking up electronic cigarettes,” a spokesperson for ASH said.

Last year, Dr. Theodore Wagener, from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, conducted a scientific study to test the ‘e-cigarette gateway’ theory, but found only one young person who began nicotine use with e-cigarettes and later moved on to tobacco cigarettes, out of a sample of 1,300 college students. “It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything,” Wagener said at the time.

Statistic evidence shows that with the introduction of electronic cigarettes, quitting rates have risen dramatic among smokers, and an overall decrease in the number of smokers has also taken place.

“I completely understand concerns about potential risks from this phenomenon but it is vital that public health experts separate opinion from evidence and present the latter as objectively as possible,” Professor Robert West advised, but policy makers and health organizations, including the WHO, seem hell bent to do just the opposite. Despite having its report on electronic cigarettes labeled as ‘alarmist’ and ‘misleading’ by various reputed scientists and health experts, the World Health Organization continues to oppose e-cigarettes.

Photo: Tom Akkermans/Wikimedia Commons

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