Austrian Court Snuffs Out Planned E-Cigarette Restriction

Court rules that blocking retailers’ right to trade freely is unconstitutional.

August 05, 2015

VIENNA – Austria's e-cigarette retailers were relieved this week when a constitutional court overturned a planned amendment to tobacco laws that would have limited the sale of most products to officially licensed tobacco shops.

The government had proposed that, beginning in October, sales of e-cigarettes be limited to licensed tobacconists. However, many retailers of e-cigarettes objected because they would have been allowed only to sell re-usable devices – but not the liquid to fill them or disposable cigarettes.

In its ruling, the court found the proposed amendment unconstitutional, saying that the health arguments put forward were not solid enough to justify blocking the retailers' right to trade freely and that e-cigarettes should not be treated the same as other tobacco products.

"We are relieved that we can carry on our business and don't have to shut up shop," Thomas Baburek, head of e-cigarette association VFFED and owner of an e-cigarette shop, told Reuters.

Austrian supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and gas stations are also allowed to sell cigarette products, but at a higher price than in the officially licensed tobacconists. At the same time, Austrian tobacconists responded by saying such products should not be allowed to be sold in what they see as an uncontrolled manner.