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Austrian Families Minister wants smoking ban for under-18s

Austria’s Minister for Families, Sophie Karmasin, wants to ban smoking for young people under the age of 18. Currently, smoking is legal in Austria from the age of 16.

Austria has one of the highest rates of smoking among teenagers and young adults in Europe, with 52 percent of men aged 18 to 28 smoking, and 34 percent of women.

Only Greeks, Bulgarians and Latvians smoke more than Austrians, according to a 2012 Eurobarometer study.

Austria is one of the last countries to allow smoking from the age of 16. Karmasin told the Austria Press Agency that she has already been in talks with Austria’s provincial governors on changing the law as part of the Youth Protection Act.

A survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 27 percent of Austrian 15-year-olds smoke at least once a week, more frequently than any other children in the OECD area – something Karmasin said was “unacceptable”.

She said that a ban on smoking for under-18s would send an important signal, although she didn’t elaborate on what the consequences would be for those who break the law.

Austria is one of the countries in western Europe where cigarettes are cheapest. The country has a deeply entrenched smoking culture, and a general ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants doesn’t come into force until May 2018. Meanwhile, there is a ban on vaping products for people under 18.

Karmasin tried to bring in a smoking ban for under-18s two years ago, but it was shot down by Vice Chancellor and ÖVP head Reinhold Mitterlehner. He said such a measure was “not necessary”. However, Karmasin is optimistic that she can get the backing for a ban this year, and said that the “health argument” trumps all others.

Tears as tobacco sponsor quits Salzburg

The festival has just lost 600,000 Euros a year as a result of the withdrawal of JTI Tobacco.

Hold that news.

You mean Salzburg were still taking money from cancer peddlers? Even though it’s illegal in Austria to advertise tobacco products? And now they’re weeping over lost cancer dollars?

Yes, to all three.

Go figure.

Austria’s new tobacco law comes under fire

A new tobacco law is being pushed through the Austrian parliament despite the fact that it contains a spelling mistake that might make implementing the law a bit difficult.

The mistake in the spelling of the font name Helvetica – which was translated into German and written as Helvetika in the bill – means that the font the government says cigarette brands must use to warn customers of health risks does not actually exist.

A request by one parliamentarian from an opposition party to have the bill corrected before being passed by the national council was rejected by the government.

“I intended to correct this obvious mistake, but the ruling parties and the FPÖ rejected our motion to amend the law accordingly. I couldn’t believe it,” said Gerald Loacker, MP for the NEOS party.

“It’s typical for the ruling parties, the social democrats and conservatives, to reject any proposal that comes from an opposition party. But refusing to admit spelling mistakes reaches a new level of stubbornness.”

The new law tobacco law, due to be implemented from the end of May 2017, is an anti-smoking measure and stipulates all cigarette packets should have ‘shock pictures’ on them and carry the warning “Smoking is deadly – quit now.”

E-cigarettes subject to “massive restrictions”

The changes to the law also affect the sale of e-cigarettes and vaporizers, often used by people to try and quit normal cigarettes as they usually contain nicotine but no harmful tar chemicals.

According to the NEOS, the vape sector in Austria will undergo huge changes as a result of this law.

“All vape products will be subject to massive restrictions by the new tobacco law, even if they come without nicotine,” says Loacker.

The NEOs spokesperson for health and care Elias von der Locht told the Local: “Mail orders, which are right now the most important distribution channel, will be completely banned by May.”

“This will probably destroy the small Austrian companies in this sector and make it easy for big tobacco corporations to take over the market, because they control the supply for all the small tobacco stores – trafik – in Austria.”

With every e-cigarette and liquid used in the device now needing official approval by the Ministry of Health, the party is also concerned the law will dramatically shrink the range of products for customers.

Customers buying e-cigarettes or liquids in a specialist store will also not be allowed to test them, despite customers buying normal cigarettes being allowed to test them in the small tobacco shops.

Von der Locht is also critical of the fact that any kind of promotion for e-cigarettes will be banned, including on websites, in news and articles, on Facebook, and anything else “that can influence people to buy e-cigarettes or liquids”.

Supporters of the new bill argue that e-cigarettes must also be included, however, as they can also cause harm.

Green politician Eva Mückstein argued in parliament that the chemicals inside e-cigarettes are dangerous and studies show that using the devices can be a stepping stone for people who go on to smoke normal cigarettes.