• 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
Russian 'terror suspect' held at Swedish airport walks free
File photo of Arlanda Airport. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

UPDATED: A 35-year-old man has been released from police custody after being arrested at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm on Friday morning.

Northern Dispatches
'Moving to northern Sweden was the best thing we've done'
Photo: FB

In his farewell column, The Local’s northern Sweden correspondent, Paul Connolly, looks back at his first four years in Sweden.

Bear family just hanging out on Swedish golf course
Not the bear cub in question. But isn't he cute? Photo: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

A bear family has been roaming a Swedish golf course, and the best thing of all is that no one cares.

The Local investigates
What do we actually know about the violence in Malmö?
Police investigating an explosion in Malmö on Thursday. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

International media have presented a "distorted" view of a spate of Malmö shootings and an explosion, a senior police boss has told The Local.

The Local List
Reasons why Stockholm Pride is simply awesome
Photo: Annika af Klercker/TT.

Stockholm's Pride festival culminates on Saturday with a parade – and more than a few parties. Here's why we think it's pretty amazing.

Cashless Swedes sitting on old bills worth billions

Old Swedish bank notes worth 1.4 billion kronor are still circulating, according to the country’s central bank, despite them having been declared invalid a month ago.

Homes
In pictures: Why is Nordic design so hot right now?
Scandinavian design. Photo: House of Beatniks

Design agency Studio Esinam investigates together with Houzz.se why the world is falling in love with Nordic style.

Stockholm one of world's best places to live: magazine
Living the dream. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Stockholm is the tenth best city in the world to live in, reckons this British magazine.

The Local Recipes
How to make Swedish 'Dream' cookies for fika
Now not only in your dreams. Photo: Jurek Holzer/SvD/SCANPIX

Want to fika but think cinnamon buns are too complicated? Try this recipe for a simple but yummy Swedish cookie.

Fears new funding rules could hobble Swedish startups
Elin Olsson funded the development of her innovative smoke detector through crowdfunding. Photo: Anders Andersson/TT

Crowdfunding is a risky business, but could Swedish plans to regulate it make it too hard for small companies to get investment?

Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Swedish cop makes arrest of the year
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Anyone for a bite of 340-year-old shipwrecked stinky cheese?
Gallery
People-watching: July 27th
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
Politics
Why Sweden's high taxes are not as high as you think
Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
National
What's haggis in a condom doing on Swedish children's TV?
National
Meet the northern Swede who is the world's best mosquito killer
National
Sweden's Hollywood star Alicia Vikander puts her pen in the bottle
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd-24th
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,411
jobs available