The Swedish government intends to ban almost all flavors in e-cigarettes and e-liquid. If successful, this will make any e-liquid, except those with a clear “smell and taste of tobacco”, illegal to sell in Sweden from january 2023. It will also open the door for more restrictions on vaping across the EU.
Now is the time to fight back!
Today, the approximately 90 percent of the 150 000 Swedish adult e-cigarette users choose other flavorings than “tobacco” flavors.
The ban will likely put many dedicated vape shops out of business, prevent convenient stores from offering e-cigarettes, and make vaping, a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, much less accessible in Sweden.
These are some talking points I put together, discussing the proposed flavor ban in Sweden. It is intended to be a resource for international stakeholders, users, wanting to address the new law which would outlaw sales of e-liquid (with or without nicotine) containing ANY added flavoring, except those which adds a “smell and taste of tobacco”.
About the proposed law
The new law is presented alongside another law, regulating production, sales and marketing of nicotine pouches (unregulated products today). The parliament will vote on both laws somewhere between 16 and 22 june 2022. But as always, the important discussions will be held during the preparation period, when the political parties decide in between themselves whether or not to promote the law in parliament. This happens during several meetings in the health committee (socialutskottet) until may 31, 2022
So those are the basics. Feel free to use this material as you see fit. Take a stand for harm reduction. Join us and contact our politicians – international consumer concern may have great impact, and make our politicians think this through.
And feel free to ask questions in the comments – i´ll try to answer them as quickly as possible!
To the talking points.
The most important point to make
If vapor products are to be regulated into near extinction, why are cigarettes not regulated to the same extent? Today anyone can buy cigarettes in almost every convenient store in the country. Why should we allow a known deadly product to be the dominant method for inhaling nicotine? Ask our politicians why they don´t ban cigarettes instead, if nothing else just to give them some perspective on this issue.
The ban goes against the parliaments wishes
Since last year, the Swedish parliament seeks to implement harm reduction in future tobacco policy. The Swedish government has, by request of the parliament, launched an investigation into the relative risks of different nicotine products. This is scheduled to be finished in may 2023. Banning flavors in e-cigarettes now, and thereby effectively reducing access to one of the products set for investigation, is not in line with the parliament’s wishes or intentions. The logic should be: Investigate first, discuss restrictions based on the report, later. Not the other way around.
We therefore urge the parliament to vote against the flavor ban, especially those who want to see a harm reduction perspective in ALL Swedish drug policy in the future (m, c, kd, sd) and those who believe in evidence-based policies in general (v and l).
The ban will not stop youth use
According to the Swedish police, young people access e-cigarettes (mainly disposables) through other sources than vape shops or general stores. The already growing black market for e-cigarettes is heavily focused on young customers, selling illicit products via social media and shady storefronts. The products, as obtained via law enforcement, are usually not even allowed to be sold in the EU. They are not compliant with the TPD (often 50 mg/ml nicotine, for example) and are probably shipped via non EU based sites without any age verification. How much will a black market dealer care about a flavor ban? Or age restrictions? This needs more attention.
A flavor ban will only destroy the legal market, denying adults legal access to the tools (yes, the flavors are i.e tools) they use to keep off cigarettes. The black market will continue – business as usual.
Instead of a ban – policy should focus on better law enforcement, more efficient, better and modern age controls, licenses for those selling e-cigarettes, marketing restrictions etc. Keep the variation of flavors but make sure youth access stays low.
”The right to like what you like”
The rationale for the ban is to dissuade youth (and non smoking adults) to try e-cigarettes. But there is also the presumption that smokers will prefer “tobacco flavors” in e-cigarettes – which is why these flavors will still be allowed to remain on the market.
Even though a small percentage of former adult smokers prefer the so called “tobacco flavors” (7-15% according to the Public health agency) a huge majority, 85-90 % chose other flavors when purchasing e-liquid. These numbers are backed up by the Public Health Agency, sales numbers and independent, or rather government funded, surveys (included in the proposal and stressed by many stakeholder inputs). So the rationale becomes faulty. Even smokers obviously prefer other flavors.
The question that should be raised instead is: What moral right does the government have to tell people what they are supposed to “like”? More importantly, why should the government force smokers to choose a flavor that reminds them of smoking? Isn´t that unethical?
The ban is arbitrary and undefined
In the proposal the government neglected to define what “a smell and taste of tobacco” is supposed to be. Still, everything BUT flavorings that add a “smell and taste of tobacco” will be outlawed. What does this even mean?
Tobacco flavor is not a natural flavor. It does not taste like a cigarette or cigar or pipe, as there is no combustion involved. There is no real “smell” of tobacco involved in e-liquid, especially since the aromas are very weak in vaporized form. No one knows what this “smell” is supposed to be, unless the government first decides what “tobacco smell” really is.
Since there are no definitions involved, the effect of the ban will be totally arbitrary. There can be no impact assessment, which makes the ban either pointless or devastating, or both.
Any ban should be given clear definitions as without definitions anything can happen. We urge politicians to think this through before voting.
The flavors are essential in pouches and snus – why not in e-liquid?
According to a new proposed law for nicotine pouches (flavored, food grade cellulose in a small pouch) flavors are “an essential part” of the product. Thus the new law will allow all flavorings in nicotine pouches. The rationale: flavors are part for the product itself – without it the product would be pointless, as food grade cellulose has no characteristic flavor.
E-liquid consists of glycerin and propylene glykol and flavorings (food grade constituents). Vapor is produced when the liquid reacts to heat – the constituents typically remain the same (with small variations due to the heating process). Just like the case with nicotine pouches, the vapor without additives, has no characteristic flavor.
Why does the government treat these two products so differently? Why not ban flavors in nicotine pouches as well? Or allow them in both products, without specific restrictions? Why shouldn’t the users of nicotine pouches be pushed to use “only tobacco/snus” flavors? This makes no sense.
We urge politicians to instead value the harm reduction aspects of all the above mentioned products. And say ”no” to restrictions that may discourage smokers to use them instead of cigarettes.
Important note: snus, the blueprint product for nicotine pouches, IS a flavored tobacco. As are cigars, pipe tobacco AND cigarettes (yes – the tobacco in cigarettes is always flavored in one way or the other)
So. Those where some talking points, specific to the proposed flavor ban in Sweden. International support is VERY welcome! Give em hell!