Sales of novel tobacco products gaining popularity in border stores

Alcohol store in Ainaži, on the Latvian-Estonian border.
Alcohol store in Ainaži, on the Latvian-Estonian border. Source: ERR

A significant increase in the sales of novel tobacco products, such as e-liquids used for vaping, which are not sold in Estonia has been reported by the retails on the Latvian border.

While the sale of alcohol in stores on the Latvian side of the Estonian-Latvian border has stabilized, there has been a big rise in the sale of novel tobacco products, say managers at Superalko and Alko1000.

Electronic cigarettes and other novel tobacco products have emerged as an "alternative" to traditional smoking.

Superalko Manager Lauri Uibo said that heated products are not available in Estonia due to legislative restrictions, unlike in Latvia, Lithuania or Russia, definitely plays a role in this.

"Where in the case of cigarettes the price difference with Estonia is approximately 10 percent, with e-cigarette liquids there's a severalfold difference," he said.

He said that where ordinary cigarettes are generally bought with alcohol and nobody in general travels to Latvia to buy them, people behave differently when it comes to e-liquids and heated products. 

At the beginning of last year e-liquids were the most commonly sold kind of novel tobacco products, but the sales of heated products have now overtaken them. 

"We sell over a hundred IQOS devices at our two stores every month, in September the 200 mark was crossed. Sales of HEETS units total over a million by now and the number has increased by a factor of three since last spring," Uibo said. "Growth has been fast, which has made planning the supply of these products difficult."

Einar Visnapuu, manager of the rival Alko1000 store chain, told BNS there stores had also seen an increase of sales, and he highlighted the popularity of nicopods. 

Visnapuu said: "Nicopods are popular in Latvia, no excise is levied on them yet and they are significantly cheaper than in Estonia."

He also said the difference between the prices of alcohol in Estonia and Latvia still exist despite the reduction in the alcohol excise duty in Estonia last summer.

Visnapuu told BNS on Tuesday: "People have got it wrong. The media wrote that Estonia brought down the excise duty by 25 percent and alcohol is cheap in our country now - it isn't cheap for sure. The price difference with Latvia today is as big as it used to be when we started, maybe even bigger,"

A legislative amendment that took effect from July 1 last year lowered the rates of the excise duty on beer, cider and strong alcohol in Estonia by 25 percent.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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