SMOKERS could be left craving their nicotine fix this week as up to 50,000 cigarette machines around the country are temporarily switched off.
The strike begins on Monday April 11 and will last for a full week, with around a third of the 150,000 vending machines currently in operation being unplugged. It has been organised by the Spanish Association of Refillable Points of Sale (AEPVR) in protest at fines of up to €120,000 which were imposed by the Tobacco Market Commission (TMC) in January, in relation to putatively illegal contracts signed between tobacco companies and machine owners.
When a tobacco machine is installed in a bar, restaurant, petrol station, or other point of sale, the owner of the machine enters into a series of contracts with cigarette brands. He or she then receives financial incentives in return for providing sales information to the brands for their market research.
The TMC fines were imposed due to these contracts being perceived as advertising for tobacco, which is banned in Spain, but the machine owners argue that the issue is legal and related to the sale of information rather than publicity. In their statement the AEPVR said: “These are €500 contracts which do not even cover the cost of maintaining the machines.”
The AEPVR claim that the fines have caused “the ruin” of around 2,000 machine owners, and have demanded a meeting with the TMC in order to regulate the sector more efficiently and “close loopholes”. They estimate that the strike will result in a loss of sales equivalent to six million packets of cigarettes this week, and threaten to extend it to a month if an agreement cannot be reached.