Norway: Young smokers should not be allowed to buy e-cigarettes

The Norwegian government wants to allow e-cigarettes and e-liquid with nicotine. But only with tobacco flavours and an age limit of 25 years. This is clear after the government submitted a proposal that is now out for consultation.
"It is a human rights violation that affects young smokers" says Frank Tinmannsvik, Norsk Dampselskap.

The Norwegian Ministry of Health wants to authorise the sale of e-cigarettes with nicotine in the cartridge, something that was previously prohibited in Norway. And after several years of preparation, the Norwegian government has now presented a proposal, which does indeed allow the sale of e-cigarettes and e-juice with nicotine, but also imposes an unusually high age limit and a comprehensive ban on flavours. 

"Young people perceive sweet-flavoured e-cigarettes as less harmful than tobacco flavours. And by setting the age limit high, we protect young people, while making e-cigarettes available to older people who use them to quit smoking," the government writes.

Violating human rights

Frank Tinmannsvik, active in the consumer association Norwegian Steam Company is shocked by the announcement. One of the reasons is that analogue cigarettes are already available to 18-year-olds in Norway.

"I get furious. We have an injury reduction policy in Norway. It is part of the agreement with the World Health Organisation (WHO). Access to less harmful nicotine products is a human right. 18-year-olds can buy cigarettes. The government is violating human rights by withholding harm reduction products from young smokers," said Mr Mulligan. Frank Tinmannsvik to Vejpkollen.

Want the same rules as neighbouring countries

Norwegian vejpare has have been waiting for years to find out when e-cigarettes and e-liquid with nicotine will be legal to sell in the country. Currently, nicotine-free e-liquid can only be purchased in Norway. However, travellers can import nicotine liquids for personal use.

According to the government, Norway, as a non-EU country, would regulate e-cigarettes under the guidelines of the European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). But that was in 2019. The process of creating a new law took a long time and the current proposal is very different from how many other countries regulate vejp products. Neither flavour bans nor extremely high age limits are part of the TPD. However, the government cites neighbouring countries as role models.

"We want similar legislation to Denmark and Finland and only allow tobacco flavours in the e-liquid. Sweden also has this proposal," writes the Norwegian Ministry of Health.

"A shameful proposal"

According to Frank Tinmannsvik Norsk Dampselskap will protest loudly against the government's bill. They have done this before, but it was about the right to access e-cigarettes in the first place.

"The bureaucrats and politicians seem to have forgotten that 600 vejpers came forward in 2016 and, before Parliament, testified about how e-cigarettes help them quit smoking. It's as if it never happened. It is a shameful behaviour and a shameful proposal."

Cigarettes are more attractive

He believes that industry will also react. Restricting flavours in e-cigarettes takes time. the range of products and is unlikely to attract many smokers. At least not as long as cigarettes are more accessible and easier to obtain.

"The organisers of small shops and petrol stations are very likely to protest. They have long expressed a strong desire to sell harm reduction products," says Frank Timmansvik.

"E-cigarettes are compared to fidget spinners"

According to a study from last year, the number of vejp young people in Norway is relatively low. And according to sociologist Rikke Tokle the use of e-cigarettes is more of a trend than something that leads to nicotine addiction.

"Eighth grade students are curious about e-cigarettes but rarely use them. Students in grade nine are more likely to use e-cigarettes more regularly. But when we compared the trends for secondary school students, we found that fewer and fewer people were using e-cigarettes. This simply seems to be a trend. "Some young people described it in the same spirit as fidget spinners," writes Rikke Tokle in her study. 'Vaping and fidget-spinners': A qualitative, longitudinal study of e-cigarettes in adolescence"

The Norwegian proposal for new legislation on e-cigarettes is out for consultation until the end of September 2021. 

Sources for this article:
Proposing a 25-year age limit for e-cigarettes
'Vaping and fidget-spinners': A qualitative, longitudinal study of e-cigarettes in adolescence

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