Vaporizing instead of smoking: Upheaval in Germany’s tobacco industry

Vaporizing instead of smoking : Upheaval in Germany’s tobacco industry

Germany's tobacco industry is in a state of flux. Demand for cigarettes is falling while new products are in demand. The Intertabac trade fair, which is regarded as the world's largest meeting place for the industry, began on Friday in Dortmund.

The trendy products are in the corner to the right of the checkout. They are e-cigarettes, electrical devices with liquids. The flavors are "Devils Darling" or "White Glacier". Christina Lüdtke-Willebrand, co-owner of the company founded in 1902, stands in the Düsseldorf tobacco shop Linzbach and looks at the merchandise in the corner.

"The demand is there, so we offer it," says the 50-year-old. She doesn't seem very enthusiastic. E-cigarettes are not a "natural product" like tobacco, she says. She herself does not smoke them. "They are too sweet for me," she says, taking a puff from a classic cigarette.

On Friday, the Intertabac trade fair, which is regarded as the world's largest meeting place for the industry, began in Dortmund. Devices for vaporizing or heating play an increasingly important role - retailers such as Lüdtke-Willebrand travel to Dortmund not only to stock up on pipes, cigars and cigarillos, but also to get to know new electronic products and order them if necessary.

Her business is an example of the upheaval in the industry: there are not only newcomers to the market with new shops, but also long-established tobacco retailers are turning to the new products. Linzbach added the vaporizers to its range about ten years ago. Since then, sales have risen steeply. But the new products still remain a niche - their share of total sales is in the single-digit percentage range, says Linzbach co-owner Werner Schmitz. The main business remains classic cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos and other products. E-vaporizers have expanded the range in a meaningful way, says Schmitz. Customers who used to come to buy cigarettes and have since renounced tobacco will continue to do business thanks to the additional offers.

There is almost euphoria in the sector. Michal Dobrajc, head of the e-cigarette trade association, says confidently: "The advance of e-cigarettes continues." The revenue from these products in Germany this year is estimated at 600 to 650 million euros and thus up to 25 percent higher than a year ago, he says, referring to a survey of companies and projections. In previous years, the increase was similarly high.

There is no reliable data, the Alliance for Tobacco-free Indulgence has different figures, but at a similar level - the organization speaks of a 25 percent increase to 570 million euros in sales in the e-cigarette trade in 2019, in 2020 it is expected to climb by 20 percent to 680 million euros. "More and more smokers in Germany perceive the e-cigarette as a better alternative to the tobacco cigarette and change their habits," the alliance says.

In fact, manufacturers advertise their products on the basis that the health risks are relatively low. Association leader Dobrajc speaks of a 95 percent lower pollutant level compared to cigarette smoking. In fact, it is undisputed that e-cigarettes are less dangerous - but with the emphasis on "less".

Because they remain bad for the health, as advised by the German Federal Center for Health Education.

Orig. text: dpa

Translation: ck

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