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Electronic Cigarette Vendors Score Major Victory in Austria

Electronic cigarette vendors in Austria can breathe a sigh of relief after the Constitutional Court overturned an amendment that would have limited the sale of most vaping-related products to officially licensed tobacco shops.

Austria-flagE-cigarettes and e-liquid can currently be sold freely in Austria, but according to an amendment supported by the Government, come October 2015 their sale was to be limited to licensed tobacconists, effectively putting all other e-cigarette vendors out of business. Technically, they would have still been allowed to sell rechargeable electronic cigarettes and accessories, but not disposable e-cigs and definitely not e-liquid. Members of the Austrian Association of Electronic Cigarette Vendors (VFFED) challenged the controversial amendment at the Constitutional Court, arguing that it would create an unlawful monopoly in the sector. On August 3rd, judges announced that the new law was indeed unconstitutional.

On the other hand, the Austrian Government presented public health reasons and the protection of youth as arguments for the implementation of the “monopoly” amendment, but the Court found them to weak to justify a clear infringement on the right of free trade. Judges also based their decision on the fact that the new law would have virtually led to the termination of business conducted lawfully by e-cigarette vendors.

The VFFED had made it clear to the court that electronic cigarettes are not and should not be treated as other tobacco products, as Government and tobacco shops would like. Some e-liquids don’t even contain nicotine and even if they do, the vaporization process cannot be compared to the combustion of tobacco cigarettes and its devastating effects on health.

The decision of the Constitutional Court sparked completely different reactions from the parties involved. E-cigarette business owners declared themselves relieved that they won’t have to close up shop and fire thousands of employees all over Austria, but emphasized that ultimately their customers are the real winners. Austrian vapers will be able to seek advice at specialized vape shops and choose from a wide variety of vaporizers and e-liquid vapers, something that the rejected amendment would have put a stop to.

Josef Prirschl, chairman of the Federal Board of Tobacconists in the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, described the decision of the Constitutional Court as “incomprehensible”, adding that electronic cigarettes should not be allowed to be sold in an uncontrolled manner, “as though at any flea market”. He again brought the protection of youth into the discussion, citing it as an argument for controlled distribution of e-cigs and e-liquids.

via Die Presse

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