Sky-high taxes, requirements for neutral packaging and a partial ban on flavours. This is how the Finnish government wants to handle the recently legalised sale of nicotine pouches in the country. But now Finnish consumers are warning of a backlash.
"The tax will be ten times higher than in Sweden. This will lead to as much smuggling as before, resulting in less tax revenue than expected," writes the organisation Vapers Finland.
Nicotine pouches have been legal to sell in Finland for six months. Now the Finnish government is proposing tough legislation to control the trade. If the proposal goes through, the portions will be taxed, increasing the price of a pack by almost 50%. In addition, the government introduces requirements for neutral packaging and a flavour ban, which means that nicotine pouches cannot taste like cannabis or alcohol. At the same time, it limits the nicotine content to 20 mg/g.
Unexpected legalisation after elections
Nicotine pouches, like the Swedish snus, have become a hot issue in Finland The previous government wanted not only to ban all imports of nicotine pouches but also to ban the pharmaceutical grade nicotine pouches available on the open market. But this did not materialise. The new coalition government chose instead to do the opposite: dwhite snuff would be legalised to be sold in all Finnish shops but at the same time regulated by the Tobacco Act.
"The tax will be designed in the same way as for cigarettes. The difference is that there will be a lower tax for nicotine portions than for cigarettes and smoking tobacco." says the government negotiator Pia Kivimies to the YLE newspaper.
However, even though the tax will be lower than for cigarettes, the proposal has been criticised, not least by users and groups advocating better access to harm-reducing nicotine products for smokers in Finland. Currently, 14 per cent of the adult population smoke. However, the use of white snus has been growing steadily and since the legalisation and smuggling of snus and other nicotine products. nicotine pouches have decreased significantly since liberalisation.
"But now the tax is ten times higher than in Sweden, where most of the smuggling comes from. In other EU countries, the pouches are not taxed at all. It will cost more to buy a legal pack of nicotine pouches in a shop than to buy a Swedish pack of snus on the black market." concludes Vapers Finland, a consumer organisation for e-cigarette users and other nicotine users in Finland.
Unclear about flavour ban
In addition to taxation, the proposal allows for a broader ban on flavours, although this is not explicitly stated in the text. Flavouring of nicotine pouches will "by definition not be prohibited". At the same time, the government states that nicotine pouches should not taste of cannabis or alcohol.
"The Ministry of Health has previously expressed the intention that flavours that attract children should not be allowed. They have also been specific here and said that sweets, fruit, berries and desserts are just such flavours. With such a contradictory and vague definition of specific flavours in the law, there is a risk of further bans in the future. It is not appropriate to be so ambiguous in a legal text," writes Mr Perez. Vapers Finland in its consultation responses.
Risk of black market sales increasing again
It also notes that the use of nicotine pouches increased among young people, despite the fact that they were completely banned, including all flavours, until six months ago.
"Legislation in Finland has had the unfortunate consequence that young people have had access to the products via a black market, while older smokers have had difficulty in obtaining alternatives to cigarettes. The smuggling of nicotine pouches decreased to only one fifth after the sale of nicotine pouches was authorised. Various bans only lead to more smuggling again, which means better access for the children who are attracted to the products. At the same time, the flavours also attract adults who use nicotine pouches to quit smoking," writes Vapers Finland.
Similar developments for e-cigs
For the e-liquid used in vejp products, there has long been a specific flavour ban in Finland. Only so-called tobacco flavours are allowed. This has led a large group of vejp users in Finland to mix their own e-liquids. Despite an extensive ban, warns police in Finland of a growing black market for eCigarettes. This follows the popularity of disposable models, which have become a cash cow for organised crime in the country.
Does not rule out a change
The Finnish government expects to raise nearly €50 million annually from the tax on white snus. This was also one of the winning arguments behind legalisation. But according to the Finnish government, the market will be closely monitored. If it turns out that the legislation has unexpected consequences, such as lower than expected tax revenues, they want to be able to act quickly.
"We recognise the risks of taxing products too heavily. But we will keep the matter under review and re-evaluate the tax levels if necessary," said Mr Snyder. Pia Kivimies to Finnish YLE.