Chronicle: How politicians are creating a new Al Capone?

WHO, Non Smoking Generation, Doctors Against Tobacco and similar organisations have an agenda that leads to disaster. Now we also have a proposal in the EU for a total ban on disposable e-cigs and the new Al Capone's office is rejoicing. "Ka-ching! Guys, they gave us the whole market! Let's celebrate!"

The year was 1919 and the temperance movement in the US, somewhat comically called the Anti-Saloon League, had won the support of a two-thirds majority in Congress for its plan for a sober and dry America.
On 16 January 1919, US alcohol prohibition was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the two chambers of the US Congress. This was done through an amendment to the Constitution called the "Volsteadlagen" which entered into force on 16 January 1920.

Was America "dry and sober"? No, absolutely not!

The result was a disaster and Prohibition finally came to an end on 5 December 1933.
What the suddenly unavailable demand created was organised smuggling of alcohol, which in many cases was so bad that it led to blindness and death. It also meant that the American Mafia grew strong and had enormous resources to work with. Money flowed to the leaders of the gangs. Al Capone was one of many organised criminals who used these resources to defend and expand their territories through violence and bribery. Shootings were commonplace, with bought-off police and politicians keeping the long arm of the law at bay.

Why am I writing now about something that happened so far away and a hundred years ago? Because the similarities with what is happening with e-cigarettes today are striking.

Think you can eradicate nicotine

We have a whole bunch of political parties, support groups and authorities, from the WHO, the Swedish Public Health Agency, the National Board of Health and Welfare to We Who Don't Smoke, the Non Smoking Generation, Doctors Against Tobacco... (the list can be made very long but it's the same people behind all the names), who seriously believe that the use of nicotine can be eradicated through legislation and bans.

We are in the middle of a huge media campaign orchestrated by WHO and Bloomberg which aims to combat anything related to harm reduction. Daily articles in the media right now and the favourite theme is that we need to ban e-cigs because kids use them, even though you know deep down that kids don't buy their e-cigs from legal resellers and that further bans do not affect kids' access to e-cigs, rather the opposite, in fact.

Huge demand - despite taxes and regulations

The aim is to make it more and more difficult for legal retailers to sell popular products through more regulations, taxes and restrictions, and to prevent the legal market from selling what many customers actually want. In Sweden alone, nearly 2 million Swedes are customers - over half of whom use snus or e-cigarettes. The illegal market sees another few million kids as 'its market'.

If the above-mentioned political groupings have their way, we will create the same situation as in the US after the ban on alcohol: a huge demand for a product that is virtually not legally available.

Criminals already have their foot in the door

Organised crime has already proved its worth today. It already has a foothold in the market for electronic cigarettes, in particular disposable models, and the reason it works is that this type of crime is favoured by politicians who have created favourable conditions for the illegal market.

Why has this happened?

Technological developments at the centre

To draw a parallel. The mobile phone market is known for its rapid development where new models replace "old" models every year and overnight the old models are hard to sell.

For electronic cigarettes, technological development is 100 times faster. There is a new model coming out this week that is actually much better than its predecessors. In Sweden, however, we have a registration period that means that legal retailers are forced to sell the old equivalent of the iPhone 5 at a more expensive price than what the black market charges for the latest top model, the equivalent of the iPhone 14 pro, with higher capacity and better functionality.

More profitable than drugs

The Swedish retailers are thus forced to compete with outdated products at a higher price than the black market is charging for "the new shiny thing", which is unsustainable.

Moreover, high excise duties only create even greater profit margins for the black market, as they only need to be slightly cheaper than the legal market.

Today, the sale of e-cigarettes is more profitable than drugs, and with low penalties and non-existent border controls, the risks are much lower. In addition, e-cigs are an important product for the black market as it gives them the opportunity to build relationships with young people, whom they also want to provide with "fun pills".

The days of cigarettes are numbered

We in the consumer movement have been warning about this development for a long time now and it hurts to see our politicians fall into the same trap as the US did with alcohol.

Politicians can pretty much only watch it happen. Whatever they do, the e-cigarette will take over smoking for both thieving young people and older people who switch from smoking and nothing can stop that development. We are quickly approaching the first (according to some the second) generation that does not smoke and just a few per cent more of reduced smoking, Sweden is classified as a smoke-free country by the WHO. We should certainly be happy about that, but WHO is responsible for access to this market, that is up to the politicians.

The good thing about this? Well, this is what the last days of smoking look like! Cigarettes may soon disappear from the market.

An agenda that leads to disaster

The WHO, the Non Smoking Generation, Doctors Against Tobacco and similar organisations have an agenda that leads to disaster. But they are just opinion machines, often with both idealistic and economic motives behind them. Now we also have a proposal in the EU for a total ban on single-use e-cigs and Al Capone II's office is rejoicing. "Ka-ching! Guys, they gave us the whole market! Let's celebrate!"

Karl-Åke Johansson
Travellers and self-employed
Spokesperson for the new Nicotine Alliance Sweden

1 Comment on “Krönika: Hur politiker skapar en ny Al Capone?

  1. Are the VISIR muppets even left as an organisation? 😂 They are as antiquated as the old Maoists in the RNS.

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