Norway prohibits all flavourings in vejp products. The exception is so-called 'tobacco flavours'. The ban applies regardless of whether the e-liquid contains nicotine or not.
"This is absolutely absurd. The government is saying that those who use e-cigarettes to stay smoke-free must now use flavours that remind them of smoking." So says Frank Tinmansvik, vejpare and active in the consumer movement for harm reduction in Norway.
For more than eight years, Norwegian vejpare has been waiting for e-juice with nicotine to become legal to sell in the country. Instead, there is a new regulation that allows nicotine-containing e-liquids, but only allows flavours that are intended to be remind you of cigarette smoke.
"Our politicians have basically thrown us like vejps under the bus. They have not understood what e-cigarettes mean for us adult users. They are banning a product that is already illegal to buy for children and young people. It's unbelievable," said Frank Tinmansvik to Vejpkollen.
More people shopping in Sweden
Currently, Norwegians can buy nicotine-free e-liquid in the form of shortfills in Norway and then import nicotine liquid from Sweden. This is provided they have a prescription from a doctor. The idea of the new law was to allow Norwegian vejpshoppers to sell the nicotine without a prescription and otherwise comply with EU legislation. The nicotine liquid that can be sold in Norway can either be unflavoured or taste like some kind of smoke essence.
"Very few EU countries have banned flavourings. Finland and Denmark have done so, but not Sweden. Significantly more people will cross the border to buy the flavours they need. Many will probably try to mix their own flavours and that could be a bad idea. Not all flavours can be vejpa, but maybe not everyone has that information." says Frank Tinmansvik.
The white snus survived
Frank Tinmansvik notes that sister products such as nicotine inclusions (the Norwegian version of nicotine pouches containing a fraction of tobacco) and regular snus fare much better under the new legislation. Online sales will remain, and the restriction on flavours initially proposed by the government was removed from the draft law.
"It was about the fact that the snus users were sufficiently numerous. The government realised that there would be a lot of lost revenue and anger if they went too hard on white snus. It was easier to sacrifice us as vejpar instead" says Frank Tinmansvik.
"Many who contacted politicians"
Markus Lindblad, communications manager at one of the Nordic region's largest retailers of snus and nicotine pouches, Snusbolaget (owned by the Swedish Haypp group), agrees.
"In the end, it was probably the pressure from all the snus users that made the government change its mind. We know that many of our Norwegian customers contacted politicians and made demands. This was of course gratifying for us. However, it is unfortunate that there is no consistent policy to discourage smoking in Norway. E-cigarettes and various forms of oral nicotine products have a very low harm profile and governments in all countries should utilise this to drive down smoking to the same low levels we see in Sweden and soon Norway" says Markus Lindblad to Vejpkollen.
E-cigs help heavy smokers quit
Norwegian researchers have long debated snus and e-cigarettes. The debate has heated up ahead of the upcoming legislation. Some researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Health have recently been accused of misleading communication in the context of a study on the risks of snus use. In addition, in autumn 2023, new studies showed that snuff has competition as the most popular way to quit smoking. It turned out that e-cigarettes are the smoking cessation tool that attracts many of the people who still smoke in Norway. According to Karl-Erik Lundsenior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Health, it is likely that most smokers who would consider trying snus have already given up cigarettes.
"Those who still smoke have probably never liked the idea of snus, but may consider vejpa. We also know that a majority of smokers who have switched to e-cigarettes in Norway use fruit and berry flavours. Banning these flavours risks significantly reducing the chances for more smokers to quit smoking," said the Commissioner. Karl-Erik Lund in Vejpkollen when the study was published.
"They don't know what to do now"
It has not yet been decided when or how the Norwegian ban on flavours in e-cigs will be implemented. Frank Tinmansvik says that he and other organised vejpers will try to influence the situation as much as possible.
"Neither the government nor the authorities have any idea how this will work or how it will work in practice. We already have an 18-year age limit for e-cigarettes in place and it seems that shops are doing well with age checks. The black market cannot be tackled with more bans. But since they didn't listen to this, we have to do what we can to maybe keep ways to flavour our e-juice with what we want, without having to break the law." Frank Tinmansvik told Vejpkollen.
"But what bothers me the most is that not everyone who smokes today will have access to e-cigarettes as a tool to quit smoking. Flavours are crucial, and without the ability to find the right flavour, many will continue to smoke instead." says Frank Tinmansvik.