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A new chapter in the tobacco shop debate

July 15th, 2013

Left-wing and liberal commentators fulminate about the exemption of tobacco shops from the municipal ban on the sale of alcohol after 10 pm. A critical conservative blogger warns against overregulation. A pro-government columnist likens the Democratic Coalition’s initiative to paint the pavement in front of tobacco shops to Nazi practices.

Heti Világgazdaság reports that the Ministry for National Development started to return the applications to candidates who did not win at the tobacco shop concession tender (see BudaPost April through July). The left liberal weekly suspects that by returning the documents, the Ministry wants to make any comparison between winning and losing applications impossible. It has also been reported that an amendment to the tobacco shop law tabled by two Fidesz MPs will exempt tobacco shops from local rules banning the sale of alcohol products after 10 PM. Christian Democrat MPs submitted a proposal to make sure that tobacco shops cannot sell alcohol at night, but as Parliament has already receded for a summer break, this will only be discussed in September. In the meantime, an association has started to gather signatures in order to initiate a referendum on the withdrawal of all tobacco shop concessions.

The governing party wants to make sure that its friends gain a nice profit from selling alcohol products at night, János Dési writes in Népszava. In a half-ironic, half serious closing remark, the left-wing commentator predicts that the government will end up offering a monopoly of selling alcohol to tobacco shops.

Magyar Narancs plainly suggests that by amending the tobacco shop law, Fidesz is preparing the ground to monopolise the sale of alcohol products, and for the announcement of a national alcohol concession tender similar to that of the tobacco shops.

Several small shops which are open all night will close as a result of the blatant preferentialism implied in the exemption of tobacco shops from the ban on selling alcohol products, László Szily suggests in Cink. He believes that the latest amendment to the tobacco shop law leaves no doubt that Fidesz wants to offer easy money to its allies through providing them with special market favours.

Extreme etatism, spreading bureaucracy, social engineering at its worst,” Gellért Rajcsányi contends in Mandiner. The conservative blogger suggests that overregulation not only makes everyday life and business unnecessarily complicated and burdensome, but also leads to problems in legislation. Rajcsányi would welcome a more hands-off approach instead of the government’s current efforts to solve all social issues by direct involvement, since such an approach always has unintended and absurd consequences.

In Magyar Nemzet (print edition), Dávid Megyeri likens the initiative of activists associated with Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition to paint “Pay to Fidesz” graffiti on the pavement in front of tobacco shops to the German practice under National Socialism of painting the word “Juden” on shops owned by Jews.