Young people as road warriors were the focus of a series of reports by SVT Västerbotten on the road warrior trend. Candy flavours and advertising on social media were thought to be the explanation. But entrepreneur Niklas Linder instead highlighted the problem of a growing black market.
"The flavours have been available for over 10 years and use among young people has been very low. The increase is due to the illegal trade that provides young people with disposable models," says Niklas Linder.
As Vejpkollen has previously reported, the use of e-cigarettes has greatly increased among young people in recent years. The reason for this is an increased interest in disposable models, single-use vapes, which are not only available in supermarkets and convenience stores but also on the black market, via social media.
"It's on different Instagram accounts that sell to anyone. And there are pictures of different varieties. You can write a message and say, 'Hey, I want this' and it will be sent to you, like that," says Ebba Wikström, a pupil at Midgårdsskolan in Umeå told SVT Västerbotten.
"Nils, 79 does not like cotton candy"
The concern has now spread to authorities and school staff who see an increasing number of young people using e-cigarettes, both in and out of school. SVT Västerbotten drew attention to the matter in a series of weekly features. Jeanette CarlssonHealth developer at Region Västerbotten describes the development as a "huge problem".
'Nicotine companies are looking for new target groups. Based on their range of products, they are clearly targeting children and young people. Nils, 79 may not like raspberries or cotton candy in his tobacco (sic)? speculates Jeanette Carlsson in SVT.
"Flavours are not the main reason"
Niklas Linder, runs the company Swedish Mixology and is a board member of the The trade organisation for electronic cigarettes. He says that flavours can certainly attract young people to try an e-cigarette. But this is not the likely explanation for the increase in use among young people, he says.
"We've had these flavours on the market in Sweden for over 10 years, but the uptake among young people has not been particularly high. Now it has suddenly increased dramatically in a short time and it will probably increase even more before it is over. Most of the evidence actually contradicts the whole idea that it is the flavours that are the major cause", says Michael. Niklas Linder to Vejpkollen.
Use among young people is increasing rapidly
According to CAN, an organisation dedicated to combating tobacco use in Sweden, the spontaneous use of e-cigarettes has increased from 5% to 20% among schoolchildren in Sweden between 2021 and 2022. Niklas Linder believes that this development goes hand in hand with the establishment of disposable models on the market.
Disposable vapes have become popular with all of their user-friendliness and accessibility among both younger and older road users. But this has also opened the door to a new market outside the legal trade. There, models that are not authorised for sale in the EU are dominant. These are disposable vapes that have a larger capacity, last longer and sometimes have a higher nicotine strength than authorised. Niklas Linder.
"The regulatory framework for e-cigarettes is extensive, with registration fees, long waiting times for approved licences and high taxes. The serious companies follow the rules to the best of their ability, but fall behind when the market fluctuates. We can never compete with those who don't care about the laws and regulations - and that's where the problems start," says Mr Perez. Niklas Linder to Vejpkollen.
Regulatory framework creates undeclared trade
He believes that the regulations themselves are designed to protect young people, but also that tough rules without any direct impact assessment have created the conditions for increased youth use. 'It has created a very lucrative black market.
"Disposable models are easy to import privately and easy to sell to anyone. Without taxes and fees, there is a very good margin on these products. We see and hear all the time about young people getting their stuff via social media, but it also happens over the counter in various kiosks. The owner may have bought a 100-pack from China, or brought it in via some dodgy door-to-door salesman. Then they sell it to anyone. Of course, they don't give a damn about any regulations, if they even know about them." says Niklas Linder.
Warns of tougher legislation
Niklas Linder, who also participated in one of the programmes of the SVT Västerbotten, says that the youth craze, as well as the targeted media coverage of the problem, risks leading to even tougher legislation on e-cigarettes. Something that he believes will make things even worse.
"We have to face the consequences. It's like a vicious circle, where young people can already buy these products very easily and cheaply on a black market, without age verification, with prices and supply that we can't compete with. The legitimate traders are penalised and lose more of the market to the illegal trade. As a result, the black market grows even more. And, as we see, it is already targeting young people." he tells SVT Västerbotten.
Need to improve control
Niklas Linder instead calls for more commitment from authorities and politicians, before it is too late.
"We already have strict age limits and strict marketing bans. This is about exercising better control over foreign imports and private imports. The authorities need to work better on this and not penalise those of us who are serious traders and actually follow the rules," says Ms. Perez. Niklas Linder to SVT Västerbotten.