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Finland: New Tobacco Law Adopted with Intent of Eliminating Tobacco Use

(Sept. 9, 2016) On August 15, 2016. new legislation on the sale and import of tobacco products entered into force in Finland. (Tobakslag [Tobacco Act] 549/2016, FINLEX; Press Release, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, New, Stricter Tobacco Act Enters into Force on 15 August 2016 (June 29, 2016).) The new Tobacco Act was adopted with the express purpose of eventually completely eliminating tobacco use in Finland. (Id. 1 §; see also Tobakspolitik, Social-Och Hälsovårdsministeriet [Ministry of Social Affairs and Health] website (last visited Sept. 6, 2016) (in Swedish).)

Under the new Act, certain types of previously permitted tobacco will now, except for a transitional period, be completely banned. New absolute prohibitions include the sale of scented and flavored tobacco products, tobacco products emitting colored smoke, and cigarettes that increase nicotine intake. (Tobacco Act, 11 §.) The sale of smokeless tobacco is also prohibited. (Id. 51 §.) Menthol-flavored cigarettes will continue to be legal during a transitional period ending on May 20, 2020.  (Id. 120 §.)

E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes are permitted to be sold to the extent that they do not violate the prohibitions listed above and provided that inhalation of the nicotine will occur at an even pace during “normal breathing conditions.” Moreover, these e-cigarettes must be child- and manipulation-proof, protected against damage and leakage, and have a mechanism in place that ensures leakage-proof refills. (Id. 23 §.)

The Act also governs the content of regular cigarettes and other tobacco products, limiting their emissions and nicotine content. Cigarettes may only emit ten milligrams of tar, one milligram of nicotine, and ten milligrams of carbon monoxide. (Id. 12 §.)

Import of Tobacco

Import of tobacco that does not emit smoke is prohibited. (Id. 63 §.) All remote means of import, such as online sales, whether private or otherwise, is banned. (Id. 64 §.) Import of tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) is only allowed through private imports by persons who have been outside of Finland for at least 24 hours. (Id. 66 §.)

Some exemptions for private use will be permitted, allowing for import for private use of banned tobacco such as smoke-free tobacco, subject to the 24-hour rule and amount restrictions capping the allowed import, for example a weight maximum of one kilogram for snuff. (Id. 63 §.) Import of e-cigarettes with more than 20 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter is prohibited, even for private use. (Id. 64 §.) There are also maximum quantity limitations for all private import of legal tobacco products; for example, a limit of 200 cigarettes per person. (Id. 67 §, item 1.)

Advertisements and Labeling

The Act bans all advertisements of tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) and requires that 65% of the tobacco packaging be covered by warnings (in words and pictures) in both Finnish and Swedish. (Id. 32 & 68 §§.)

Prohibition of Smoking in Designated Areas

The Act prohibits smoking in cars when children under the age of 15 are present (id. 74 §) and allows housing associations to prohibit smoking in common areas in the proximity of building entrances, building air vents, and play areas, and on public balconies. (Id. 78 §.) In addition, the Act allows landlords to petition the local government to ban smoking in semi-private areas of their facilities, for example on private balconies. (Id. 79 §.)

Municipal Responsibilities

In addition to reviewing the above-mentioned applications for smoking bans, municipalities are now responsible for weaning their inhabitants off tobacco use and enforcing the sales and marketing provisions of the Tobacco Act. (Id. 8 §.)