Swedish politicians believe in banning flavours in e-juice

Only tobacco flavours - or no flavour at all. This could be the future of e-juices and e-cigarettes in Sweden if the Parliament decides today.
"Flavours should be banned. There is no reason to flavour with different tempting flavours that appeal to young people" says Lena Emilsson (s) to Vejpkollen.

A majority of Swedish parties would consider banning, at least partially, flavours in e-cigarettes and e-liquid. This is according to a survey conducted by Vejpkollen. There is great concern that e-cigarettes attract young people. At the same time, several parties believe that vejp users should be satisfied with tobacco flavours. Or no flavour at all.

"Is it really the case that the vejpningen option is less appealing just because flavouring is removed? I don't think so" says Lena Emilsson, spokesperson for the Social Democrats on tobacco issues, to Vejpkollen.

CAN: Curiosity more important than taste

The Swedish Centre for Alcohol and Drug Education (CAN) regularly conducts statistical surveys on tobacco habits in Sweden. Since 2014, the reports also include questions on young people's use of electronic cigarettes. The proportion of young people who have tried e-cigarettes has steadily increased since then. In 2018, between 32 and 41 per cent of children in grade 9 and the second year of upper secondary school had tried an e-cig. One per cent of secondary school students were regular users. According to CAN, young people follow the same pattern as adults when it comes to vejping. Almost 200,000 people over the age of 18 will use e-cigarettes in Sweden in 2021, of which around 70,000 are daily users. The majority are former smokers.

"As in the adult population, students who smoked were more likely to have tried e-cigarettes than students who did not smoke. It appears that the most common reason for young people to try e-cigarettes is curiosity." writes CAN.

S: "Ban flavours"

But according to Lena Emilsson it is the flavours that attract young people more than anything else. No matter what the CAN survey shows.

"There is no need to flavour with different enticing flavours that appeal to young people. Flavouring of e-cigarettes should be banned." she told Vejpkollen.

Young smokers do not believe that e-cigarettes would be used to quit smoking. Lena Emilsson on.

"It is not good that young people start using e-cigarettes at all. Since it's usually not about smoking cessation, it's not good," she told Vejpkollen.

KD: "Reasonable to review flavourings"

Opposition parties also see flavouring as problematic for e-cigarettes. 

"The risk with flavoured products is that it attracts non-smokers to try them. Flavouring with candy-like flavours feels like a marketing ploy to get mainly young and former non-smokers to think that it is good. For our part, it may be reasonable to review the possibility of restricting flavouring," he says. Michael Anefur (kd) to Vejpkollen.

Michael Anefur believes that smokers should be able to settle for fewer flavours to stay away from cigarettes.

"Those who switch from regular smoking to e-cigs should in most cases like the tobacco flavour" says Michael Anefur to Vejpkollen

Flavours of e-cigarettes crucial for smokers

According to several UK and EU-related studies, the flavours important when smokers switch to electronic cigarettes. Although most people start with tobacco flavours, the studies clearly show that fruit flavours and menthol become more common as former smokers get used to using e-cigarettes. According to UK researchers, variety is key to reducing relapse to smoking.

"We see a pattern that shows that those who manage to stay away from cigarettes do so by gradually switching to more advanced devices combined with moving from tobacco flavours to fruit, candy and pastry flavours," the researchers write in the Harm Reduction Journal.

C: "Need to follow developments"

While the debate on flavour bans is ultimately a matter for the Parliament and the Social Affairs Committee, several politicians are calling for more research in this area. Centre says that there are many questions about vejpning.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty about the effects of e-cigarettes because there are no long-term studies. Even non-nicotine e-liquids often contain other harmful substances. We need to monitor the development of knowledge and cannot exclude the possibility that we need to do more to limit their use. Regulation of flavourings may therefore be a possibility, but here too we need the expertise of the expert authorities," writes the Centre Party via a press secretary. Amanda Florin to Vejpkollen.

V: "Can't decide without more knowledge"

In the context of flavouring regulation, the discussion is as much about protecting young people from exposure to nicotine products. Karin Rågsjö (v) argues that a possible exposure ban on tobacco products would also apply to e-cigarettes. At the same time, she agrees that more research on young people's usage habits is needed.

'We need to know more about who is using e-cigarettes. Is it young people who are attracted? It's more pleasant than cigarettes, I think. But does it make them start smoking?" says Karin Rågsjö to Vejpkollen.

Karin Rågsjö believes that no progress can be made on the issue, let alone a decision, without first looking at the research.

"We cannot make decisions without knowing more. We have to start from the health risks. The research should be part of the same research as for tobacco." says Karin Rågsjö.

SD: Make tobacco law work better

The Sweden Democrats, who have previously taken an explicitly positive view of e-cigarettes as tobacco harm reduction, argue that the flavour issue is more about marketing than about the flavours themselves.

"Marketing and flavourings must not be aimed at young people" says Christina Östberg, Member of Parliament in the Social Committee for SD, to Vejpkollen.

According to the Sweden Democrats, the issue is more about getting young people to comply with existing laws.

"One problem is that teachers and police are helpless when students smoke outside schools. Smoking is forbidden on school grounds, but young people only need to walk a few extra metres to smoke in peace and quiet. The Tobacco Act needs to be tightened to allow the police (and head teachers) to confiscate tobacco when a minor is using it. Provide information on the harmfulness of smoking as early as middle school, not just on one occasion", says Mr Perez. Christina Östberg.

Study on e-cigarettes

At the end of March, the Government's report on e-cigarettes and other tobacco-like products will be presented to the Parliament. This includes proposals for possible tightening of the law on e-cigarettes.

Vejpkollen has reached out to representatives of the Moderate, Liberal and Green parties for comments on e-cigarette flavouring, but is still awaiting a response.

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