Entrepreneurs take action against black market for e-cigs

The industry organisation for electronic cigarettes is now mobilising to tackle the growing black market for e-cigarettes in Sweden. The organisation recently reported several websites selling illegal vapes to the Swedish Public Health Agency and plans to do so systematically in the future.
"In addition to the hidden black market on social media, it is also through these types of websites that minors obtain e-cigarettes today" says Daniel Leis, shop owner and member of BELC.

Recently, companies in the e-cigarette industry have noticed several websites launching e-cigs, especially single-use models. These are often sales via Swedish e-commerce platforms. Easy to set up with integrated payment systems. 

"There is definitely a lack of age verification - often no age verification at all - on these sites, as can be seen, for example, in one of the reviews where a person bragged about ordering without being of age." says Daniel Leis who runs Vapes in Lidköping and Gothenburg.

6000 flares = illegal model

But even if the age checks had worked, the products sold on the sites are often completely illegal to sell, both in Sweden and Europe. Niklas Linder, who runs Swedish Mixology and is a board member of BELC, says that it is quite obvious when a shop tries to sell products that are not authorised in Sweden.

"A trained eye can immediately see what's going on, especially when it comes to disposable vapes. Too high a nicotine content, sometimes up to 50 mg/ml, promises of "6000 puffs" and far too much e-juice in the container are sure signs" says Niklas Linder.

Tough rules for sales

The rules on which products can be placed on the market in the Sweden is strictly. Each product (except nicotine-free e-juice) must be registered with the Public Health Agency six months before it can be sold. To be authorised, the product must also be adapted according to the criteria of the European Tobacco Directive. This means, among other things, that the nicotine content of an e-juice may not exceed 20 mg/ml and that the amount of e-juice in pre-filled containers may not exceed 2 ml. 

"A single-use model that lasts more than 800 puffs is guaranteed to contain more e-juice than the 2 ml maximum limit set by law. Such a model would therefore never be authorised in Sweden." says Niklas Linder.

New websites all the time

Two of the websites (all sales and leostod) highlighted by BELC members were quickly taken down by QuickButik - the platform used by companies to organise sales. Daniel Leis says that QuickButik has acted with exemplary speed, but warns that more rogue operators are emerging all the time.

"We need to actively make Swedish e-commerce platforms aware that their customers can use their service for illegal activities. The payment services that authorise the transactions must also start taking responsibility and setting higher standards for the sale of regulated products. Daniel Leis.

Different authorities share responsibilities

The Public Health Agency is responsible for controlling the sale of e-cigarettes online. According to the law, products cannot be marketed more than necessary, and all products available for sale must be registered with the Agency. Municipalities are responsible for ensuring that physical shops comply with the law and control the shops in their neighbourhood.

"Need to monitor the market better"

According to Daniel Leis in 2023, the BELC will continuously receive tips on the illegal sale of e-cigarettes, to be forwarded to the relevant authorities.

"When it comes to illegal sales, it's obviously us shop owners who have to deal with this. But if illegal sales are to be organised, it is very important that the Public Health Agency of Sweden monitors the market better than they do today, that the municipalities communicate with the industry and that the police understand what is happening" says Daniel Leis.

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