Smuggling greatly reduced after the availability of nicotine pouches

Smuggling of nicotine pouches and snus has decreased dramatically in Finland. This is after nicotine pouches became legal to buy in ordinary shops. The online magazine YLE reports

Since May 2023, it is authorised to sell nicotine pouches with high nicotine strength in Finnish shops. This is after the Finnish Medicines Agency decided to remove the products from being classified as medicines ahead of an expected government decision to regulate them as tobacco products. As Vejpkollen previously reported the measure was intended to be part of a complete ban on the products in Finland. 

However, this was not the case. Following the elections in the summer, which led to a change of government, the new government announced that it would nicotine pouches should instead be regulated, taxed and thus authorised. on the open market in Finland. The rationale was to overcome the large black market and collect taxes on sales.

Reduced by 80 per cent

And according to Hannu Sinkonnen, head of the customs enforcement unit, the decision seems to have taken effect after only a few months. According to Finish customs the number of seizures of snus and nicotine pouches decreased by as much as 80 per cent compared to the same period last year. Between January and September 2022, Customs seized almost 3,500 kilos of illegal snus and strong nicotine pouches. In the same period this year, the figure was 700 kg.

"We certainly made large seizures of snus last year. But despite this, the difference is very remarkable," says Mr Perez. Hannu Sinkonnen, to newspaper.

No longer medicines

Nicotine pouches were previously classified as medicines in Finland. A Finnish smoker who wanted to use nicotine portions for smoking cessation therefore had to buy them on prescription from a doctor. At the same time, as sales of nicotine pouches increased in Sweden, their popularity grew, but not the weak pouches from the pharmacy shelf, but the stronger version with a nicotine strength equivalent to Swedish traditional snus. The use of traditional snus was common in Finland even before the country joined the EU in 1995, and since the country implemented the EU tobacco laws and the associated snus ban, imports from Sweden have been extensive. The same also applies to nicotine pouches.

Affects private smuggling the most

The smuggling of snus and nicotine pouches from Sweden to Finland, in conjunction with the discussion on nicotine pouches, has attracted a lot of media attention in both Sweden and Finland. Finland and Sweden. On average, customs seize 9000 kilos of snus annually and the organised illicit trade in snus takes place mainly via the border with Sweden in the north and waterways in the south. 

According to Hannu Sinkonnen, liberalisation has probably so far mostly affected private smuggling. A Finnish citizen may import one kilogram of snus at a time for private use, and much of that trade goes through Hapraanda and Torneo.

"There we have seen that the spontaneous, private smuggling has decreased, clearly. It's almost only organised smuggling that takes place over Torneo right now," he tells Yle.

Becoming legal - but with a flavour ban

Finnish legislation on nicotine products is one of the most restrictive in the EU. In addition to the ban on snus, there are also flavour ban on alternative products such as e-cigarettes and high taxes on everything associated with weaving, including glycerine and propylene carbon - if sold in a weaving shop. Online sales of weaving equipment are also banned, as are imports. At the same time, nearly 14% of the population smoke, much higher than in Sweden, where the corresponding figure is 6%.

According to the government, the rules around nicotine pouches will be similar to those for e-cigarettes, including a possible ban on flavours.

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