Working group: Cigarette packs to come off open shop shelves and a full ban on snus
The working group proposes that the Act on Measures to Reduce Tobacco Smoking (Tobacco Act) is amended so that tobacco products could no longer be displayed in retailers selling tobacco products. The working group also proposes that the import, purchase and possession of tobacco products is prohibited for persons under 18 years of age and that breaching the regulations on the sale of tobacco products is criminalised. The import, sale and other transfer of snus would also be banned. The working group preparing legislative amendments and measures regarding tobacco policy submitted its proposals to Minister of Health and Social Services Paula Risikko on Thursday 18 December.
Full ban on snus in Finland
The working group proposes that all import, sale and transfer of oral tobacco is prohibited. According to the current EU legislation, the import, sale or transfer of snus is prohibited in all of EU except for the Swedish area and territorial waters. The current Finnish Tobacco Act allows import of snus for own use only. The working group maintains that snus causes nicotineaddiction faster than cigarettes and that allowing new tobacco products into the Finnish market is not reasonable from the public health point of view.
The working group also proposes a ban on the import, sale and other transfer of tobacco substitutes and tobacco imitations, such as herbal cigarettes, electric cigarettes, and candies imitating the appearance of tobacco products.
Restrictions on the display of tobacco products
In Finland, the advertising, indirect advertising and sales promotion of tobacco products have been banned since 1976. According to the working group, the product packs and the way they are displayed at points of retail sale have developed into the most important means of advertising tobacco products. Studies show that the more tobacco products are on display, the higher is the risk to take up smoking.
It is proposed that tobacco products and trademarks can no longer be displayed in points of retail sale and that tobacco products cannot be sold through vending machines. On request by the client, the retailer can show a catalogue of tobacco products on sale, listing the names, the number of pieces or amount of grams and the prizes of the products in uniform font. The client could not take the list with him or her.
Smoking premises not allowed close to children
The proposal is that smoking premises cannot be established indoors or outdoors or close to different kinds of airshafts if the facilities are used by under-age persons, or indoors or outdoors in hospitals and health centres. In hotels or other lodging houses, only three rooms or a maximum of one tenth of the hotel rooms can be reserved for smoking customers. It is proposed that the smoking ban in the public transportation is expanded to cover all other vehicles when there are under-age passengers.
It is also proposed that the sale of tobacco products is prohibited indoors and in the adjacent outdoor areas of facilities that are meant for under-age persons. The working group suggests that regulations corresponding to those in the Alcohol Act are be introduced into the Tobacco Act, i.e., persons under 18 years of age would no longer be allowed to buy or possess tobacco products. Selling tobacco products to under-age persons could lead to imprisonment. The working group says that selling tobacco products to under-age persons is a display of total irresponsibility on the part of the retailer as under-age persons are not mature enough to assess themselves the consequences of smoking.
The working group proposal circulated for comments until the end of January
The working group reforming the tobacco legislation is chaired by State Secretary Ilkka Oksala. The proposal will be circulated for comments until 31 January 2009. The Government proposal on amendments to the Tobacco Act will be submitted to Parliament during the 2009 spring session.
The report of the working group preparing legislative amendments and measures regarding tobacco policy is available in Finnish on the webpages of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health www.stm.fi.
For further information contact: State Secretary Ilkka Oksala, tel. +358 9 160 73165 or Ministerial Adviser Olli Simonen, tel. +358 9 160 74376