Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Talking E-Smokes

I'll occasionally point out odd-ball things that occur in some European countries, but not in others.

In Germany, there are a dozen places where you can buy "smokes" (cigarettes).  You could stop at a gas station, a grocery, a bahnhof shop, etc.  The only general rules are that all smokes are taxed, and only 'mature adults' (meaning 18 years old).  We used to have the 16-year old rule....but the health folks got that all changed.

Down in Austria....it's a bit different.

You buy smokes only from a tobacco sales shop, and it's a government franchise thing. Going back well over two hundred years, Austria's government has led a deal where mostly retired military or disabled folks who get a franchise.  Over the entire country, there are around 8,000 tobacco shops.  Their revenue, which involves taxes to the government, amounts to a fair amount of money. They sponsor lobbyists and work to ensure anti-smoking campaigns fail (often, I might say).

Generally, if the Austrian lobbyists get involved in something.....it's a scripted deal and works to their advantage.

Now, I bring this up, because this week they announced (the Austrian government) that the new trendy e-smokes (electronic and juice, no tobacco).....which were totally open and sold by specialized e-shops (not the tobacco shops)....will end on 1 April of 2015.  After that....e-smokes (the electronics and liquid) can only be sold by the 8,000 current configuration of shops.

What happened?  No one says much.

I noticed back in the summer as I vacationed in Vienna....a couple of e-shops and they had advertising along with signs to point themselves out.  No tobacco....no pipes.....no cigars.  Just plain e-liquid.

Some folks have put a fair amount of money into this....developing the e-shop trade. Basically, they are screwed.  They could convert to tobacco, but that's not their trade, and they'd have to fit into the privileged entry area (former military or disabled).

The other side of this story?  For every guy converted over to e-smokes.....that's one less customer for the old tobacco stores.  They had no choice.....either fight with lobbyists money to safeguard their trade or face destruction over the decade ahead.

I should note....for some odd reason....the treasury department who drafted up the whole change.....thinks the tobacco shops would be more capable of ensuring teens didn't buy the e-smokes and the health aspects of smoking would be pointed out while folks bought the e-smokes.  I cracked a smile over that one.  I doubt if any tobacco merchant has ever talked health issues over nicotine.

A fight over e-smokes?  Maybe.  I suspect someone will sue and note that there is no tobacco in e-smokes, which pokes the government on how this fits into tobacco shops.

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