• Sweden's news in English
 

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
Saudi ambassador to return to Stockholm
Photo: TT

Saudi ambassador to return to Stockholm

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Sweden will soon return to Stockholm, according to the al-Arabiyya TV channel. But a Swedish government source has denied reports that Sweden offered the Saudis an apology. READ  

Swedish MPs meet Snowden in Moscow
Photo: TT/Right Livelihood Award Foundation

Swedish MPs meet Snowden in Moscow

Three Swedish parliamentarians met with fugitive US intelligence agent Edward Snowden at a secret location in Moscow on Friday to discuss mass surveillance. READ  

Spring budget
Petrol to cost more as Greens get their way
Social Democrat Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and her Green Party deputy Per Bolund at a press conference on Friday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT.

Petrol to cost more as Greens get their way

Sweden's left-wing government proposed a hike in petrol taxes on Friday, citing the drop in oil prices and pressure put on it by its coalition partner the Greens. READ  

Swedish Nobel laureate Tranströmer dies aged  83
Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/SCANPIX

Swedish Nobel laureate Tranströmer dies aged 83

UPDATED: Swedish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature Tomas Tranströmer has passed away at the age of 83, his publishers confirmed on Friday. READ  

Sweden Democrat head: 'I'm on antidepressants'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson before his sick leave. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Sweden Democrat head: 'I'm on antidepressants'

Jimmie Åkesson, who is poised to return as leader of Sweden's nationalist party in April after months of sick leave, has revealed he is taking antidepressants for exhaustion and sleeping difficulties in an interview set to air late on Friday. READ  

Is Swedish super coach Pia Sundhage quitting?
Pia Sundhage, left, celebrating after Sweden beats Scotland in the World Cup qualifier. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

Is Swedish super coach Pia Sundhage quitting?

Swedish football coach Pia Sundhage's contract leading the women's national team runs out next year. And she has not yet made up her mind as to whether or not she wants to stay on. “If they asked me today, I would say no,” she told The Local on Friday. READ  

Stieg Larsson's partner blasts trilogy sequel
Eva Gabrielsson, Stieg Larsson's former partner. Photo: TT

Stieg Larsson's partner blasts trilogy sequel

The partner of Sweden's best-known contempory author Stieg Larsson has criticised the decision to publish a fourth installment of his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, written by another author. READ  

Ikea flat-pack shelters set to house refugees
Ikea flat-pack shelters will be delivered to refugee camps. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Ikea flat-pack shelters set to house refugees

Flat-pack shelters produced by Swedish furniture giant Ikea are set to provide temporary homes to thousands of refugees in camps around the world. READ  

Swedish PM faces rights pressure in China
Sweden's PM Stefan Löfven talks to reporters outside the Swedish Embassy in Beijing. Photo: Karin Olander/TT

Swedish PM faces rights pressure in China

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven landed in China on Friday for a two-day visit. But on the home front he has been facing pressure to push more to get human rights on the agenda when he meets with Chinese leaders. READ  

The Local Recipes
How to Make Chocolate Truffles for Easter
Chocolate Truffles. Photo: John Duxbury

How to Make Chocolate Truffles for Easter

If you are looking for a fun alternative to Easter eggs, why not try Swedish chocolate truffles. They are delicious, easy to make and kids can help you make these delightful sweets. Food writer John Duxbury shares his recipe with The Local. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm is the 'Boston of Europe'
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Blog updates

27 March

Celebrating Three Great English Exports In 2015 (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Deputy Head of Mission Aidan Liddle joins us for another guest blog today. In 2015, England..." READ »

 

27 March

Editor’s blog, March 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Europe remains in shock following the Germanwings plane crash in the Alps that killed 150..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'?
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
National
Neo-Nazi activity rising in Sweden
National
How to make Swedish Waffles
Gallery
Property of the week: Torslanda - Hjuvik
National
Stray dog Arthur moves in with Swedish owners
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
National
Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres
Gallery
People-watching: March 21st
National
Why elderly Swedes are among the world's happiest people
National
TIMELINE: Gothenburg shootings
National
Can Sweden's feminist party score success in neighbouring Norway?
National
Why Brits can't get enough of Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's solar eclipse
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Royal wedding countdown begins
National
Viking ring reveals Islamic ties
National
TIMELINE: Julian Assange sex allegations in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: March 18th
National
One in three Russian diplomats are spies, says Sweden's Security Service
National
Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Northern Lights on show across Sweden
Technology
Why Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing for more girls in tech
Gallery
Property of the week: Umeå
National
Introducing Sweden's Eurovision 2015 entry Måns Zelmerlöw
Gallery
People-watching: March 13th - 15th
National
Why have Swedish prosecutors made a U-turn in Julian Assange case?
Sponsored Article
How Sweden and India can work together
Politics
Who's the new young leader of the Christian Democrats?
Travel
Why are Swedes so obsessed with Mallorca?
Gallery
Princess Estelle celebrates her mother's name day in Stockholm
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Obama's anti-Semitism team heads to Stockholm and Malmö
Gallery
People-watching: March 11th
Technology
How a Swedish app is teaching children to empathize
Swedish grandparents put on disguises to snatch baby
National
Why Sweden may not be as gender equal as you think
Politics
Why does Russia blame Sweden for the crisis in Ukraine?
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen
National
Listen to the English remix of a Swedish 'genitals' song gone viral
Technology
'Swedish women are strong and ambitious'
National
Why are 11 Roma people suing the Swedish state?
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
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

3,482
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