Ban on marketing of e-cigarettes criticised

The marketing of e-cigarettes is in principle prohibited in Sweden. However, the Swedish Consumer Agency's interpretation of the law makes it more difficult for smokers to find healthier alternatives. This is according to Niklas Linder, chairman of the Swedish trade organisation for electronic cigarettes (BELC).

The marketing of e-cigarettes is in principle prohibited in Sweden. However, several organisations regularly accuse companies in the industry of using social media campaigns to attract new customers. BELC, the trade association for electronic cigarettes, organises around ten Swedish companies that sell and produce vejp products and e-liquid in Sweden. And BELC's members are far from being big players who spend millions on marketing. On the contrary, says Niklas Linder.

"The Swedish e-cigarette industry is independent and has no links to the tobacco industry. There is no agenda to lure young people into a nicotine addiction. At the same time, the ability to tell tobacco smokers that there are better alternatives is almost impossible today." says Niklas Linder to Vejpkollen.

Marketing of e-cigarettes

According to The Consumer Agency's interpretation of the law in principle, all marketing of e-cigarettes and nicotine-containing e-liquid is completely prohibited in Sweden. Nicotine-free liquids may be marketed, but the law also affects the ability of companies to express themselves freely on their websites. Each text and post, including links to research, is assessed on the basis of its purpose. A text on the website that, in the judgement of the Swedish Consumer Agency, aims to promote sales on the website may therefore be illegal. And Niklas Linder says that the consumer label goes too far in its interpretation of the law.

"Their definition of marketing is that companies do not even should speak about studies or reports, if they give the impression that e-cigarettes may be healthier than tobacco. Which there is no doubt that they really are. It's government censorship and limiting the ability of citizens to learn about a healthier alternative", says Mr Perez. Niklas Linder

Businesses are afraid to speak out

Recently, organisations such as the Non Smoking Generation and the Heart and Lung Foundation have in several contexts accused players in the e-cigarette market (here in Göteborgs Posten) to mislead their customers. They claim that the companies are deliberately enticing young people to try e-cigarettes. According to Niklas Linder, this is not the case. But many in the industry do not dare to speak out for fear of reprisals.

"Companies that make billions selling stop-smoking products pay large sums to organisations that at first glance seem impartial. But every day they spread outright factual errors and lies about e-cigarettes that fly in the face of modern, independent research. We can't even respond to these claims, citing such research, without risking penalties and fines," said Mr Perez. Niklas Linder

Is there not a risk that unregulated, aggressive marketing will attract the "wrong" customers, such as young people?

"The Swedish industry does not see the proactive work to prevent young people from using nicotine as a concern. On the contrary, we welcome it. Restricted marketing of nicotine products is an obvious part of why European countries see much lower adoption rates of e-cigarettes among young people. This is compared to countries where marketing is free, such as in the United States," said Mr Higgins. Niklas Linder

Photo: Desiree Angrell helps customers in one of Gothenburg's vejp shops. Photo: Stefan Mathisson

Sources for this article:

Swedish Consumer Agency guidelines for marketing of electronic cigarettes

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