Roadmap for tobacco and nicotine-free in Finland

The working group to develop tobacco and nicotine policy, published its proposals how to achieve the Finnish endgame aim. In its report, the working group emphasises that the implementation of the proposals is only an intermediate step in ending the use of tobacco and other nicotine products in Finland.  The further actions must be carried out every few years.

Every government until 2030 must investigate and evaluate how to achieve the endgame objective and propose the necessary further actions. The implementation of the actions must be included in every government programme.

Key proposals of the working group

Continued tax increases

The tax on tobacco should support the prevention of young people starting to smoke, in particular, and thereby the non-smoking of future generations. It also means tobacco taxation should cover novel tobacco products, too. Furthermore, it should be investigated if there is the possibility to impose a tax on new types of tobacco-free nicotine products in the same way that electronic cigarette liquids are taxed in Finland.

Since 2009, the tax on tobacco has been increased in Finland almost annually. From 2016 to 2019, the tax on tobacco has increased and will keep increasing every six months. The tax increases implemented thus far are successful and the working group proposes that the tax increases should be continued similarly in the future. Furthermore, the increases should be designed to outstrip the consumers’ purchasing power.

In 2020, once the increases on the tax on tobacco of the current government term have been implemented, the average price of a cigarette pack is expected to be approximately €8.20.

Many ways to protect young people

The working group proposes that the age limit for the sale, importation and possession of tobacco and nicotine products be raised to 20 years.

Flavour or aroma in any tobacco product increases the product’s attractiveness, especially among young people. For this reason, the ban on characterising flavours and aromas should apply to all tobacco products (such as water pipe tobacco, cigars and new tobacco products).

The use of tobacco and nicotine products should be taken into account in the classification of audiovisual programmes (films, TV shows, games or other content intended to be viewed as moving images). The use of tobacco and other nicotine products should be added among the definitions of the Act on Audiovisual Programmes as detrimental to the development of children. When evaluating the detrimental effects of audiovisual programmes, the context and depiction of the events in the programme should be considered and the age limit should be set accordingly.

Smoke-free environments

For health protection, it is justified to expand smoking bans to apply to smoking, heating or other use releasing fine particles of all tobacco and other nicotine products.

Smoking bans will be expanded to also cover outdoor spaces and areas that are mainly used by underaged persons, such as playgrounds and beaches. Furthermore, smoking bans will be expanded to cover public transport stops and taxi ranks.

Plain tobacco products and packaging

The working group proposes plain packaging for all tobacco and other non-medical nicotine products as well as their packages. This will reduce the likelihood that the consumers find another nicotine products more appealing.

If the working group’s proposal is implemented, Finland will be the first country worldwide where the regulation of plain packaging would cover not just tobacco products but also, for example, nicotine liquids used in electronic cigarettes.

Reimbursement of smoking cessation medications

All medications prescribed by physicians and used in the treatment of tobacco and nicotine addiction be included in the reimbursements for medicine expenses under the National Health Insurance.

To encourage the cessation of using tobacco and nicotine products and to distribute information a nationwide communications campaign should be established, and sufficient resources to be allocated to it.

Smaller amounts of tax-free tobacco and nicotine products

The number of cigarettes that can be imported tax-free from outside the EU should be restricted from 200 cigarettes to 40 cigarettes (two packs of 20 cigarettes), cigars from 50 to 10 pieces, cigarillos from 100 to 20 pieces, and the import of pipe and cigarette tobacco from 250 grams to 50 grams.

The limit for the passenger import of tobacco for oral use, chewing tobacco and nasal tobacco should be reduced from 1,000 grams to 100 grams per day. In practice, that would be five 20-gram packets of smokeless tobacco (typically Swedish type of smokeless tobacco, snus).

No to flavour the tobacco/nicotine products

The current Tobacco Act already bans characterising flavours or aromas in cigarettes, rolling tobacco and the liquids used in electronic cigarettes.

The ban on characterising flavours and aromas is also applied to the sale of products intended to give the final product (such as cigarettes) a characterising flavour or aroma, such as flavour cards.

New products covered by regulation

New products that resemble tobacco products and contain nicotine but are not tobacco are constantly being introduced. Such products could be, for example, nicotine-containing bags similar to Swedish type of smokeless tobacco (snus), nicotine-containing jellies intended for water pipes or nicotine salt intended to be vaporised using an electronic cigarette or similar device.

New nicotine-containing tobacco substitutes should be regulated in the same way as tobacco products and nicotine liquids (sale subject to a licence, display ban, etc.).

Guidelines to prevent tobacco industry interference

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has bound Finland since 2005. More attention should be paid to the objective of Article 5.3 in order to ensure the awareness of decision-makers, officials and other parties involved in health policy as well as their commitment to the enforcement of the Article.

National guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control should be drawn up by 2020.

Attention to environmental issues

The working group finds it important to ensure that the toxic waste generated through the use of tobacco and nicotine products do not burden the environment.

The responsible ministries in Finland, should investigate and propose actions needed to prevent the environmental and health hazards posed by tobacco and nicotine products. The working group regards cigarette butts and waste from other nicotine products as waste that is hazardous to health and the environment.

No investments in tobacco or nicotine industry

The activities of tobacco companies and other nicotine product manufacturers do not comply with the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, and such activities should not be supported through the investment of public funds.  Such companies should also be refrained from investment funds.

Research, control and monitoring

To achieve the objective of the Tobacco Act stably funded and continuous research, as well as functional control system and monitoring are needed. The functioning of the tobacco control and monitoring systems must be secured.

Read more:

The report in English.

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 31.5.2018. Press release.  Working group: Smoke-free Finland through better tobacco and nicotine policy

Further information:

Mervi Hara
Executive director
ASH Finland
Tel. +358 504602324