The battle of the flavours begins - proposals to be made this spring

Banning flavours and cracking down on nicotine products? Or strategic harm minimisation and continued good alternatives to cigarettes? This spring, the Government will present two proposals to the Swedish Parliament that will affect the future of e-cigarettes, e-liquid and other alternative nicotine products in Sweden.

On 22 February, the government will present a new ANDTS strategy - a plan for how Sweden will deal with alcohol, drugs, doping, tobacco and gambling issues over the next four years. 

On 22 March, a proposal to regulate nicotine pouches will be published. The same bill includes proposals for legislation that could ban virtually all flavours in e-liquids, except for so-called tobacco flavours.

"It's really time for us to start coordinating now. There will be many battles for Swedish vejpers and entrepreneurs this spring." says Victor Bryn-Jensen, newly elected President of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Association (BELC).

The ANDTS strategy will be crucial

The first is the government's ANDTS strategy. As recently as this summer the parliament voted no to the government's proposal at the time. The shortcomings of the strategy were too many, according to Social Affairs Committee and pointed mainly to ambiguities in drug and tobacco policy. Among other things, the government wanted to equate cigarettes with snus and treat all nicotine products in the same way, regardless of their risks. 

Damage minimisation can change everything

But equating snus, nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes with tobacco smoking and cigarettes is wrong, according to a majority of MEPs. Instead, they asked the government to set up an enquiry to clarify the differences between products in terms of relative risk of harm. The future strategy should simply include a harm minimisation perspective, according to the Parliament.

"It will be interesting if the government comes to its senses here. They equated all nicotine products with cigarettes. And that's what they fell for. If they listen to the criticism, and include a harm minimisation perspective in the ANDTS strategy, then we have a good chance of stopping a future flavour ban" says Victor Bryn-Jensen.

Political majority for flavour ban

The question of ban on flavours will appear in Parliament in March. Together with a regulatory framework for nicotine pouches. And so far it is difficult to know what the proposal contains. Among the parties in the Parliament Vejpkollen's previous review that a majority would support a ban on flavours. But the margins are small, and if just one party changes its mind, the game changes completely. 

The Public Health Agency has taken a position

At the same time, several of the major commentators, including public health authority, were in favour of a ban on flavours. However, major stakeholders in the business community have a contrary view. Among the critics are several trade organisations, business institutions, the big tobacco companies and BELC

"We are of course against a ban on flavours. And we hope it doesn't happen. But we shouldn't hide the fact that it could actually go through. And then the question is how hard it will be?" says Viktor Bryn-Jensen, who also works at the vejp company Ciggy.

Already flavour bans in neighbouring countries

He recalls that our neighbouring countries Finland and Denmark have already introduced flavour bans and that The Netherlands are well on their way. Finland allows only tobacco flavours, while Denmark also allows menthol in the e-liquid. However, the Danish ban on flavours risks violating the law. EU free trade lawsalthough this has not been legally tested at EU level.

"We don't know what the Swedish proposal looks like yet. In the first draft, the government wanted to ban flavourings even in nicotine-free e-juices. That is, shortfills. And these are products that are not regulated under the TPD, the European Tobacco Directive. Will it even be possible, and are there any precedent cases? "We will look at that for the spring debates. " says Victor Bryn-Jensen.

Calls on vejpers to get involved

During the autumn and winter, BELC and several vejpshoppers have urged their customers to contact the Minister for Social Affairs and members of the Social Affairs Committee. 

"We have asked them to ask the social committee how they will stay smoke-free if their substitute becomes less attractive. It is important that the vejps raise their voices on this issue" says Victor Bryn-Jensen.

Positive to rules on nicotine pouches

In connection with the flavour ban, the government also wants to introduce laws governing the production, marketing and sale of nicotine pouches. Nicotine pouches are also sold in some vejp shops but are currently completely unregulated. And this is where legislation is welcome, according to Victor Bryn-Jensen.

"It feels like an obvious development. Today there is not even an 18-year limit on nicotine pouches. We need good legislation, not only to protect young people from unnecessary addiction, but also to legitimise the product. Then it won't be a strange grey area anymore, where companies self-regulate as they wish" says Viktor Bryn-Jensen.

Hope for the best

The government is expected to release the proposal for a new ANDTS strategy within a few weeks. When the proposal for a flavour ban and regulation of nicotine pouches will come is difficult to say. How it will be formulated depends on how the debate and decisions on the ANDS strategy turn out, believes Victor Bryn-Jensen.

"It is probably a prerequisite that the ANDTS strategy first opens up for stricter regulation of all nicotine products. If it does not, and instead has an element of harm minimisation, then the flavour ban will be rather illogical. So we have to hope for the best" says Victor Bryn-Jensen.

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