• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Swedish customs tie up e-cigs in legal loophole

The Local · 16 Jan 2014, 12:56

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.

Story continues below…

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
Sweden votes yes to controversial Nato deal
A Nato exercise in Spain 2014. Photo: AP Photo/Daniel Tejedor

A bid to stall the decision was voted down.

Swedish pensioner 'pulled fake gun' on salesman
A file photo of an airsoft gun not linked to the story. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

We know that many of you have probably had your patience tried by salespeople in the past. But don't do this at home, kids.

Swedish PM shakes up cabinet in key reshuffle
Ann Linde, Peter Eriksson, Isabella Lövin, Stefan Löfven, Karolina Skog and Ibrahim Baylan. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

UPDATED: Will this turn a page on weeks of scandals for Sweden's coalition?

Why this Swedish handyman wore high heels to work
Not the ideal footwear for manual labour. Photo: Emil Andersson

Laying a floor in a fourth floor apartment turned out to be pretty difficult in high heels.

Julian Assange
Stockholm court upholds Assange arrest warrant
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

UPDATED: A Stockholm district court has maintained a European arrest warrant against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The Local List
Ten ridiculous things Zlatan has compared himself to
Thinking about that time he compared himself to Rambo? Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Is it a Ferrari? Is it a shark? No, it's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Sweden sees dramatic rise in syphilis cases
New figures show a significant increase in Swedish syphilis cases. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Syphilis is on the increase in Sweden, with the number of new cases more than tripling in some parts of the country.

Why Sweden's teachers have no time for their students
A Swedish classroom. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Teachers in Sweden are drowning in paperwork and have insufficient time to properly plan lessons, a new report suggests.

Foreigners in Sweden still more likely to be unemployed
A grim outlook is predicted for foreigners in Sweden. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Unemployment is falling among native Swedes, but foreign-born citizens are struggling to keep pace.

'Help! My name is Jihad'
Jihad Eshmawi. Photo: Private

My name doesn’t make life easy for me, Jihad Eshmawi tells us.

Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Business & Money
Why Swedes don't want the euro
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Blog updates

20 May

Editor’s blog, May 20th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Do not mention Abba! Or cuckoo clocks! Our most read article this week was…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
National
Why a 116-year-old Swede isn't the world's oldest woman
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
National
Youth unemployment falls in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: May 11th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Gallery
People-watching: May 6th-8th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
Politics
Why Sweden's Greens are in free fall
National
Can these cartoon Swedes help foreigners blend in?
National
Why this fearless woman is the talk of Sweden
National
Sweden set for sunny weekend
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vollsjö, Sjöbo
Features
How to be a cool Swede during a hot summer
Gallery
People-watching: April 29th - May 1st
3,315
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se