In a bid to close regulatory gaps and bolster addiction prevention, the Salzburg state government is pushing for restricting sales of tobacco-free nicotine pouches to individuals below 18 of age. As reported by Salzburg ORF the proposed amendment, backed by the ÖVP and FPÖ, aims to curb the rising popularity of these products among teenagers. Pending approval from federal authorities, the measure underscores the government’s commitment to safeguarding youth health and well-being.

The NNPA/Pouchforum has a clear stance on sales and marketing to minors and welcome that concrete steps are taken to curb youth access to nicotine products. We believe the present status of nicotine pouches as a completely unregulated product (in Austria and several other Member States) is a potential problem that can be encountered by clear rules and complementary measures such as demand for age verification and effective supervision to mention the most obvious examples.
Youth usage is however not the only problem with an unregulated product and we would like to see a comprehensive European legislation including standard labelling requirements, warnings and an appropriate ceiling on nicotine content per pouch (primarily to avoid extreme products).

Pouchforum considers the reported intentions of the Salzburg proposal contains several important points and even if we are positive to see the sober language used it is difficult to not comment on some of the quotes in the article. Some nicotine pouches are according to Marlene Svazek (FPÖ) “marketed as a healthy alternative to cigarettes, which gives young people a false image of harmlessness. In reality, even more nicotine is often absorbed into the body than with classic smoking.”

While we agree that no nicotine product should be considered healthy nor harmless, it is generally considered a fact that nicotine pouches pose a substantially lower health risks compared to smoking cigarettes. It is also crucial to distinguish between nicotine and the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. Since minors should not use any nicotine product this comment might come across as a seemingly pedantic distinction, but considering that the present public debate on harm reduction often is skewed by similar misconceptions, we consider it an important point to make. We are strongly in favour of adult smokers being informed of opportunities to reduce risk.
In conclusion, we welcome the intentions of Salzburg region to restrict sales and marketing to minors and we encourage Austria to support a more comprehensive, holistic and common European legislation that address youth usage while also providing clear rules for labelling, warnings and a sensible cap on nicotine content and at the same time allows nicotine pouches to be available as an alternative for adult smokers.

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