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Sweden has the lowest rate of smoking-related mortality in the European Union, and Norway is considering a lifetime tobacco ban. In this episode we ask Stefan Mathisson, how do nicotine product regulations vary around Scandinavia?


0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak
1:02 - Stefan Mathisson explores the Scandinavian approach to THR
5:41 - Denmark favours flavour ban
8:29 - Sweden impliments tax on nicotine e-liquids
10:10 - Finland bans online sale of nicotine vapes
12:01 - Support for THR in Swedish parliament
14:29 - Nordic consumer organisations mobilise


Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV.

Sweden has the lowest rate of smoking-related mortality in the European Union. In Norway,

the government is considering a lifetime tobacco ban and a ban on flavored vapes. In Denmark,

the use of nicotine products among young people has increased in recent years.

What are the vaping and smoking situations in each Scandinavian country? And what regulations

are enforced? To answer this and other questions, we speak with Stefan Mattisson, a journalist,

editor-in-chief of Vejpkollen, and a proponent of tobacco harm reduction in Sweden.

This is part 1 of our interview with Stefan. Part 2 will air on Tuesday, 2 May on GFN-TV.

Hello Stefan. Thank you for joining us today. First, can you briefly summarize the vaping

and smoking situation, as well as policy regulations in each country?

Most Nordic countries, at least if you look at Sweden, Norway, Denmark and also Finland,

we all have the TPD regulations coming around in one way or the other. Norway is a kind

of an outlier there because they're not part of the EU, but they have adopted lots of TPD

regulations in Norway, and they're going to implement even more quite soon. So when it

comes to e-cigarettes, we have basically the same regulations when it comes to what you

can sell and not sell, with some very important separate differences. And those are particularly

when it comes to flavors and stuff like that. But in general, to sell e-cigarettes and what

you can buy in the stores is regulated in the same way all over the country. So you

can basically buy the same devices everywhere. Denmark is a bit of an outlier there, but

still, you can buy the same thing. When it comes to, for example, I can start with Norway

because they're the most recent, where the most recent changes are happening. You are

allowed to sell and buy e-cigarettes in Norway. And there are about 70 vape shops selling

devices, selling nicotine-free e-liquid, because one of the things in Norway is that you cannot

buy e-liquid with nicotine in Norway yet. They have new regulations coming this summer,

but they have been waiting for these new regulations that allows nicotine to be sold since 2016.

And there have been reports every year since then. I checked it up. I've written about

it in my, in vape column, I think four times every year since 2019, every year. And the

same, the headline has been the same every year. Now you can buy nicotine in Norway,

but it hasn't happened yet. So it's kind of, it's coming now. So that's the situation in

Norway basically. And with the new regulations coming in Norway, where you'll be allowed,

you will be allowed to buy nicotine, but you'll have a nicotine limit for 20 milligrams per

milliliter, just like in the EU. You will be allowed to buy it over the counter in vape

shops. And the thing that differentiates from rest of Europe is that they will have a flavor

ban inactive. So you will only be allowed to buy tobacco flavors in Norway, if you're,

if it has nicotine. So situation in Norway right now is that you can, you can buy any

flavor you want with the nicotine free e-liquid, and you can add your own nicotine. And right

now, vapors in Norway are importing nicotine for personal use with the medical prescription.

So they can buy, like, you can buy nicotine that will last you for three months or something

like that. And then they can do it again. So Norway is kind of a, it's a weird legislation

going on in Norway. We're not even going to start to talk about nicotine pouches because

that's just weird. But, but they sell a lot of snus in Norway and nicotine pouches as

well. So I think if you look at the number of smokers in Norway, it's been declining

steadily since, since they started measuring this in like the eighties. And right now,

I think the number of smokers is around 10% in Norway. Most smokers have turned to snus

or nicotine pouches and some of them about, you know, around 2% turn to vaping. So among

youth in Norway, there is no smoking at all, basically below 1% in certain groups. But

they use a lot of nicotine pouches among the youth, and usually cigarettes as well. Well,

so that's Norway right now. I don't know if that answers the question about Norway, but


Yes, definitely. And what's happening in Denmark right now?

Denmark has TPD regulations in place, but they also recently enacted a flavor ban for

e-liquids. So you can only buy e-liquid with, with or without nicotine that has the tobacco

flavorings in them. Whatever that is, no one really knows. And so on. When it comes to,

for example, disposables in Denmark, they have a special regulation in Denmark that

efficiently bans disposables, if that makes sense. And the reason for this isn't flavorings

or anything like that is because of the childproofing. And a disposable e-cigarette without childproofing

is not allowed. And of course, disposable e-cigarettes, they're not really made to be

childproof. It's hard to make them childproof because you have an automatic draw and stuff

like that. So I think there's just one model that's allowed to be sold in Denmark. On the

other hand, there's a lot of disposable use or like e-cigarette use in Denmark because

most of the people who wants to get their disposables buy it from the black market,

which is huge in Denmark. I like to add that this also goes for Norway. You can, you know,

black market for disposables is a thing that's going on in every country. So what else? Denmark,

Denmark has some special rules for e-cigarettes as well. When it comes to what you can sell

and who can sell them. To be allowed to market and sell in Denmark, you need to have a permit

from the Danish government or Danish agency, public health agency. And this is quite expensive

to get. So if you're, for example, the Swedish company who markets their products online,

they cannot ship to Denmark. They cannot, according to the agencies that try to make

it so that it can't even market in Denmark, but that kind of went away. But so most Swedish

vape shops that I know of have actively tried to, you know, push back Danes. You can't,

you cannot buy anything from Swedish online stores. I think this goes for everyone in

the EU as well. So it's hard to get vaping products that are not, you know, registered

in Denmark for Danish sales right now. But of course we have such things as bridges and

borders and cars. So many people in Denmark get their stuff from abroad and bring it into

Denmark. And Sweden? And Sweden can take that. The TPD rules are also in effect here. We

have no restrictions on flavors. We have restrictions on nicotine levels, of course. And also we

have taxes on e-liquid. Like I say, every country has about the same tax on e-liquids.

Norway, Denmark, and Sweden has about the same. So the taxes are, I think, between two

or four milligram, two or four kroners per milligram. That's 0.2 euros or 0.4 euros per

milligram, milliliter of e-liquid. And there's a difference between if it's below 50 milligrams

per milliliter or above. There's different taxes going on. I think they have that in

both in Denmark and in Sweden. And Norway doesn't have it yet, but they will have it

for the summer. So the taxes on e-liquids, but no flavor bans in Sweden. We voted that

one down. And as part of that, we have about the same regulations as the rest of Europe

with restricted sales to minors. You can't buy anything if you're under 18. The companies

need to register their products six months in advance and stuff like that. And there's

no marketing basically at all allowed in Sweden, or Denmark, or Norway. And what do we see

in Finland? Finland has a special, Finland has a kind of a special regulation because

they never allowed flavors in e-liquids except for tobacco flavors. And this was enacted

when they implemented the TPD rules. So they never had anything else but tobacco flavors

legal in Finland. So that's kind of a different thing. And also online sales of vaping products

is disallowed in Finland. You cannot buy anything online. You can't bring it into Finland. Well,

you can't, the border patrols online are harsh. So Finland has become the DIY country when

it comes to vaping. They're still like 2% of the Finnish populations are vaping. Smoking

rates are higher than the other countries, of course, because they don't have alternative

products. It's about 14% in Finland. It is going down, but it's going down slowly. And

snus is a thing in Finland as well. And you're still allowed to import snus. So like six

to 8% I think of the Finnish population are using snus as well. And it's a huge border

sale going on in the northern parts of our countries. So Finland, when it comes to vaping,

quite harsh climate. I think most of the vapers who knows what they're doing kind of get by.

They buy flavorings from like semi vape shops who can sell bakery flavors basically. So

those who know what they're doing, they can make other flavors than the weird mysterious

tobacco flavor. Which governments are most supportive of the use of safer nicotine products?

Right now, Sweden. So Sweden, and when it comes to the poll, like when you look at the

politician or the political landscape in Sweden, we have like a majority in our parliament are

very pro harm reduction when it comes to tobacco. They recently asked the public health agency

and a couple of other entities within the departments to actually investigate and report

on the different harms of different nicotine products, which has never been done in Sweden

before. We still have the lowest smoking rates in Europe, though. So it hasn't really been

a question because so many people use snus and nicotine pouches. So that is the thing.

Sweden is the most harm reduction friendly government right now here. But that's just

the government. I mean, the public health agency has a very, very strong hold on the

tobacco policy in Sweden. And the public health agency is not a political entity. Shouldn't

be in any way. But they within that agency, they are very anti harm reduction for now.

So and that is the same in the other countries as well. The difference between Sweden, Norway,

Finland, Denmark is that the government or like the parliament are actually embracing

harm reduction here in a different way than they are in the other countries. I know that

Norway has kind of a harm reduction perspective, but they haven't really enacted it. They are

quite prone to like the use of snus. So so in Norway, there are going to be no flavor

bans for snus products or nicotine pouches. But when it comes to e-cigarettes, they're

really harsh on e-cigarettes. So I would say Sweden is the first one. They have like the

most most outspoken harm reduction perspective on things. Norway comes second because they

are kind of they are going to they haven't allowed any alternative nicotine products

until now. But still, after that, I'll say Finland and Denmark has a kind of equal stance

on the very anti harm reduction perspective. Are there any consumer organizations in each

country that are working actively on tobacco harm reduction? I mean, consumers of consumer

organizations are always hard to measure what kind of work they actually do. But all of

our countries have consumers of consumer organizations actively or more or less actively trying to

address harm reduction towards politicians and stuff like that. So I would say there

is I mean, we have had a movement in Sweden last year that reacted to the flavor ban plans

that the government had at that time. And that kind of mobilized, I mean, around 600

people of a vaping community that isn't that large, really. And that was a kind of a big

thing. But I know, for example, Denmark has had a really strong advocacy for harm reduction

among consumers. Dataflow is a big one. They had a lot of influence, but not enough influence,

obviously, because they have a flavor ban there. But the activities going in Norway

as well, they are they are reacting now to the policy that's being implemented in Norway.

So I know they recently have some change of organizational things and how the consumer

group, the Norsk Dampselskap, is going to work, but they're still active. And in Sweden,

for example, we have NNA Sweden, which is an organization that formed a long time ago,

but was activated when the flavor ban was coming last year. So last year, the year before

that, actually. So and these organizations, I mean, I mean, we do talk between them. I'm

a bit active in NNA Sweden as well. I'm on the board, but and the talks are like more

of updating each other on what's going on. But we haven't really tried any more dynamic

inter-Nordic thing, even though I think that would be interesting to see what would happen.

And I think it might happen now that I mean. The landscape for vaping is changing rapidly

now because just this past year, we've seen vaping going from just being basically local

companies selling e-cigarettes and stuff like that, and even nicotine pouches, nicotine

pouches, different story. But but when it comes to e-cigarettes, I mean, since the disposable

e-cigarette actually really skyrocketed when it comes to popularity, vape shops has been

selling them as well. But the format of the disposable e-cigarette has made it a commodity

that they've been sold in every shop, not just vape shops. And this has finally led

to the big entry of the big tobacco company. They have decided that they can actually sell

e-cigarettes now and they are launching disposable e-cigarettes all over Europe. Both PMI and

BAT are going for this. And this means that the debate on e-cigarettes is going to go

up to the next level. And that means consumers, consumer organizations are also going to be

they need to be on the other level to be able to to take the fight when it comes to protecting

our consumer rights and availability, because when the tobacco companies are in this, I

mean, it's going to get harsh because tobacco companies may be very good at selling stuff,

but that's the problem, because this is going to be a big issue for politicians to handle

when they realize that disposable e-cigarettes are very popular among young people and older

people, but especially around young people. So I don't know. The future will be interesting

for consumer groups in these countries, especially in Nordic countries, because we have a harm

reduction history with nicotine pouches and snus. So we need to kind of merge e-cigarettes

with the BAT and about that kind of discussion.