• Sweden edition
 
Swedish customs tie up e-cigs in legal loophole
An e-cigarette. File photo: Osseous/Flickr

Swedish customs tie up e-cigs in legal loophole

Published: 16 Jan 2014 12:12 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Jan 2014 12:56 GMT+01:00

In October 2013, Swedish customs (Tullverket) seized a parcel from China containing liquid nicotine refills (e-juice) for electronic cigarettes, which was on its way to a company in Malmö. The package was confiscated on the grounds that the liquids were classified as medicine, rendering the import of e-juice without a permit illegal.

A month later, a Malmö court ruled that the border officials were wrong to confiscate the package. The ruling said that another court proceeding in Uppsala was currently debating whether or not liquid nicotine should be classified as medicinal, which, the Malmö court said, meant that customs officials had no legal basis to apprehend e-juice.

"It is indisputable that in the present situation these products may be sold legally in Sweden," the verdict read. 

In January, Swedish customs decided to try another method, sequestering liquid nicotine imports through "administrative apprehension". Customs have confiscated the products by referring to the rules of the Swedish Medical Products Agency (Läkermedelsverket). That interpretation means an attempt to import such items is not a crime, but that it still cannot be done without a permit. 

"No one knows for sure yet what is in these products," Anna Björklund, a lawyer at Tullverket, told newspaper Sydsvenskan. "They need to be compared with other nicotine-containing smoking rehabilitation products, such as patches and inhalers. But until a decision has been made in Uppsala, it is important that we use what tools we have to promote public health.”

Björklund added that the Malmö court decision was regarding an embargo on e-cigarettes, and that "apprehending" the packages is a different legal action. The end result, of course, is the same – the products never arrive at their destination.

Just how strict Swedish customs are with apprehending imports is unclear. Many e-cig users have continued to receive packages containing e-juice, and some customers will continue to order e-juice even if it comes with a legal risk.

"I would rather risk a legal rap than start smoking again, and I'm pretty sure I would (resume smoking) without e-juice. I would guess that 70 to 80 percent of e-cig users would start smoking again without access to e-juice, and awful numbers of people will die unnecessarily,” said Stockholm e-cig user Patrick Nielsen.

A randomized trial study by medical journal The Lancet concluded that e-cigarettes were at least as effective as other methods when it came to quitting smoking , even when using non-nicotine e-cigs. The devices are increasingly popular among those trying to quit smoking, and many tout e-cigs as a much safer alternative as they do not contain tobacco, a key carcinogenic ingredient in normal cigarettes.

E-cigarettes in and of themselves are legal in Sweden, and nicotine-free e-juice is available. However, products containing nicotine are generally classified as medicinal. Two exceptions are normal cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, snus, which are instead regulated by the Tobacco Law (Tobakslagen). A small bottle of liquid nicotine e-juice can contain much higher concentrations of nicotine, which the medical products agency said led to 33 poisonings in 2013, including both children and e-cig users.

“E-cigarettes are generally used to quit smoking, but all such products containing nicotine are regulated by the Swedish Medical Products Agency. Nicotine gum, patches, et cetera. E-cigarettes are no exception,” agency spokesman and nicotine specialist Martin Burman told the TV4 news channel. “But the difference is that those products have been evaluated and approved. E-cigarettes have not.”

Until e-cigarettes and their refills have been studied and approved by the agency, nicotine e-juice cannot be sold in Sweden. However, webshops registered outside of Sweden are not under the jurisdiction of Swedish law, and many e-cig users and suppliers alike purchase e-juice online. These are the packages Tullsverket aims to halt.

Since e-cigs do not contain tobacco, many Swedish smoking laws do not apply to them. For instance, there is no legislation to block e-cigs from being smoked in public buildings or restaurants. Until further studies can determine the effects of “vaping” (as e-cig use is commonly called, referring to the production of vapor instead of smoke), and second-hand vaping, The Swedish Medical Products Agency views this as a problem.

In December 2013, the European parliament voted to include e-cigarettes under the revised and preliminary Tobacco Products Directive, which meant that the cigarettes can be sold in the same ways as tobacco, but with certain restrictions. Refill bottles containing e-juice were also allowed, though in two years’ time the European Commission will report on potential health risks and potentially update the law. In addition, each country in the EU has the right to place its own limits on sales of e-cigarettes, and if three countries choose to ban e-juice refills it will lead to a union-wide ban. Later this month, the European parliament will conduct a final vote on the Tobacco Products Directive.

In the meantime, Swedish customs plan to continue withholding e-juice imports, although spokeswoman Björklund said she suspected that an appeal against their choice of administrative action was not far off.

Solveig Rundquist
Follow Solveig on Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced that it was nominating Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

BREAKING
Submarine search called off in Stockholm
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Submarine search called off in Stockholm

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. A press conference giving more details is expected at 10am. READ  

Politics
Sweden to get EU 'Christmas present'
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at an EU summit in Brussels this week. Photo: TT

Sweden to get EU 'Christmas present'

Sweden is set to get 1.2 billion kronor ($168 million) back from the EU on December 1st, according to leaked EU documents which suggest that other European countries will have to make large top-up payments this year. READ  

Science
Asteroids leave mark on Sweden
Astroids can leave marks like these. Photo: TT

Asteroids leave mark on Sweden

Some 458 million years ago, Earth was whacked in a double asteroid strike, leaving craters visible in Sweden today, space scientists have reported. READ  

New coalition
New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Green Party leader Åsa Romson. Photo: TT

New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget

UPDATED: Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-led coalition has revealed its first budget proposal, listing plans to spend more than 20 billion kronor. READ  

Royal family
Swedish royal couple set wedding date
The couple pictured in the summer. Photo: TT

Swedish royal couple set wedding date

Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, who got engaged earlier this year, have announced they will marry next June. READ  

Analysis
Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'

There is talk that the nationalist Sweden Democrats could trigger a fresh election, by rejecting the new coalition's budget. But leading Political Scientist Li Bennich Björkman tells The Local that the party is just game-playing and should be focusing on getting its fatigued leader back. READ  

Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Chocolate and liquorice are on the menu in Gothenburg this weekend. Photo: Shutterstock

What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st

A secret gig in Stockholm, a short film festival in Uppsala and a gastronomy event in Gothenburg have caught our eye this week. READ  

Science
Astronaut helps launch first student satellite
Christer Fuglesang on a previous space mission. Photo: TT

Astronaut helps launch first student satellite

Sweden's debut astronaut Christer Fuglesang is helping students at KTH Royal Institute of Technology to become the first in the country to make their own satellite and send it into space. READ  

Weather
Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow
Kiruna, in far northern Sweden, has already been hit by snow this season. Photo: TT

Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow

Sweden's weather agency has warned that up to ten centimetres of snow are on the way for Sweden. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

967
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN