The proposed amendments seek to clarify regulations regarding alternative nicotine products. The aim is to reduce smoking rates in Estonia, improve the safety and accessibility of less harmful nicotine products for smokers. Estonia ranks third in Europe in terms of smoking deaths.
One of the bill’s initiators, MP Tarmo Kruusimäe expressed particular concern that the majority of previous amendments to the Tobacco Act, have not only led to an increase of smoking and increased health risks, but unintentionally created a burgeoning black market.
The proposed amendments will introduce regulations on nicotine content in white snus (tobacco free snus), modify current regulations on flavours and access to online sales.
Current regulations and proposed amendments.‘White Snus’ is subject to tax but unregulated in Estonia.
The proposed regulations will:
- Set the maximum nicotine content in ‘white snus’ to 25mg/g and limit the maximum pouch size to 1 gram.
- Prohibit the addition of vitamins, caffeine, taurine and other additives which may give consumers the false impression that 'white snus' is beneficial to health or promotes energy.
- Exclude sweet flavours from the selection such as candy, cakes, soft drinks etc., which may be attractive to youth.
Flavours in ready-made e-liquids in Estonia are currently limited to tobacco and menthol.
Flavours have been one of the most controversial aspects of e-cigarettes. The selection of flavored e-liquids will be extended, whilst flavours described as sweets, candies or soft drinks will remain prohibited. It is hoped that the changes will offer people who smoke additional choices and thus encourage them to quit.
Online sale of less harmful tobacco products is currently not allowed in Estonia.
Domestic online sales of alternative products will be restored, but will require digital identification (ID-card) to exclude any sales and availability of products to minors. A similar system has been adopted in Estonia for digital voting which has proved to be very secure.
The current regulations of safer nicotine products does not extend to the appearance of the packaging.
The new amendments will ensure that images and icons relating to child centric graphics such as cartoons, toys, characters, descriptors etc., will no longer be portrayed on the packages.
The display of electronic devices used for safer nicotine use is currently prohibited except in specialist independent retailers.
The amendment will allow general retailers to display electronic nicotine products thus allowing adult customers the opportunity to view the range of available products and allow them to make informed choices.
The Tobacco Act must embrace the ethos of tobacco harm reduction if Estonia wishes to reduce smoking related deaths and become smoke free as soon as possible.
The Bill on Amendments to the Tobacco Act are available on the website of the Riigikogu.