Thousands of retailers, especially convenience stores and petrol stations, are not authorised to sell e-cigarettes. This is after the Chemicals Inspectorate changed the rules for authorisations at short notice. The authority is now backing down after pressure from business owners and county councils.
"We do not plan to conduct inspections in this area during the current year (2022). We are also advising the municipalities to postpone the inspection work", writes the Swedish Chemicals Agency in a press release.
Thousands of retailers risk being left without it new authorisation to sell e-cigarettes. The authorisation covers the sale of disposable models, pre-filled pod systems and highly concentrated nicotine liquid (between 18 and 20 mg/ml depending on the composition) and came into effect on 1 July. However, as the information on the authorisation was issued late in the spring, far from all affected shops have applied. Moreover, the county administrative boards do not have enough time to process the applications that do come in.
"We received information about the Swedish Chemicals Agency's new interpretation of the authorisation requirements late, so we have little staff for this, but we are working as fast as we can" says Cecilia Niklasson Wrande, county environment engineer and administrator at the County Council of Västra Götaland.
Applicable to all shops
The new rules apply from the beginning of 2022 and the application for a licence must be sent to the county administrative board where the store operates. Companies with several physical stores can apply for all stores in each county.
"All shops selling the products must have their own licence. It doesn't matter if you only sell a one-off cigarette a year," says Mr Perez. Cecilia Niklasson Wrande.
Thousands of retailers affected
According to Cecilia Niklasson Wrande the county administrative boards were notified of the new rules very late (in May 2022), making the whole process more labour-intensive and time-consuming than usual.
"It would be one thing if this licence only applied to the few specialist shops that sell nicotine liquid. This may have been the case a few years ago, when we first raised the issue with the Chemicals Inspectorate. But the market is no longer like that. There are now thousands of convenience stores and petrol stations selling e-cigs in various forms," he says. Cecilia Niklasson Wrande.
Simple one-off models behind the increase
For example, since the Chemicals Agency started looking at nicotine liquids, single-use models (so-called disposables) have become a common feature of the market. These are simpler e-cigs which are easy for non-specialised shops to sell alongside cigarettes and other nicotine products. This has led to a significant increase in the number of retailers.
"When I asked about the number of shops selling e-cigarettes, i.e. those that need individual licences, I estimate that there are close to 7,000 retail outlets across the country. This will be unmanageable with the resources the county administrative boards have today." says Cecilia Niklasson Wrande
"Takes time to get the application approved"
Getting an authorisation takes between five and eight weeks.
"It takes time to approve an application. The actual processing is one thing, but then the application must be referred to the municipality responsible for supervision in the area covered by the licence. Then, for example, a municipality can say no, depending on whether the shop in question has misbehaved in the past when it comes to handling hazardous substances" says Cecilia Niklasson Wrande
The Västra Götaland County Administrative Board received 30 applications on 30 June, the day before the law was due to be applied, says Cecilia Niklasson Wrange.
"Companies have taken a lot of responsibility here and help each other to make correct applications. But very few have received their licences on time," she says.
Such as the Road Column previously reported the situation has led to both rumours and confusion for businesses. Major retailers such as Circle K, has told both customers and shopkeepers to keep e-cigarettes off the shelves until all licences are in place. However, it is likely that many shops will not know that they need a licence or, in the worst case, that they can be fined for not having one.
Chemicals Inspectorate backs off on controls
Following pressure from both county councils and business owners, the Chemicals Inspectorate has recently announced that it will not carry out checks on licences.
- Both companies and county administrative boards have contacted us in the last two weeks. Both parties consider that they have been given too little time to apply for and issue licences. By postponing supervision, we are giving both the industry and the county administrative boards more time," says Mr H. H.. Camilla Zetterberg, Head of Unit at the Swedish Chemicals Agency in a press release.