Questions and answers on the new Tobacco Act

Finland’s new Tobacco Act came into force on 15 August 2016.

Below is a collection of answers to general questions regarding the changes brought about by the new Act.

Frequently asked questions

  • Why was the Tobacco Act reformed?

    The previous Tobacco Act was from 1976. The Act had been amended dozens of time, and as a result had become incoherent. The reform was also connected with the EU Tobacco Products Directive, which had to be put into effect in member states. In addition, some of the changes present in the new Act relate to the specific considerations of Finnish authorities and Finland’s own legislative needs.

  • Why are there warning pictures on cigarette packs?

    The pictures are intended to warn about the real impact of smoking on a person’s health. Pictures are more noticeable, and they affect people more powerfully than the text warnings that are currently displayed on cigarette packets. Old packs that have only text warnings can still be sold, however, until 20 May 2017.

  • Why can’t cigarettes taste like menthol anymore?

    The ban is based on the EU Tobacco Products Directive. According to research, flavourings such as menthol and chocolate increase experimenting with tobacco and the danger of becoming a regular smoker, especially among young people.  The aim of removing flavourings is to reduce the appeal of smoking.

    Menthol cigarettes may induce a stronger addiction than other cigarettes. This results from the fact that menthol anaesthetises the mucous membranes, which means that the smoker draws the smoke very deeply into the lungs.

    Menthol cigarettes can be sold until 20 May 2020.

  • Is it permitted to smoke freely on balconies and terraces and in yards and courtyards?

    The new Act does not forbid smoking on balconies or outside of homes, but a housing company may apply to the municipality for a smoking ban in certain areas, such as balconies. Municipal authorities will impose a smoking ban if, under normal conditions and for either structural or other reasons, smoke could spread, for example, from one balcony to another. The spreading of the smoke is sufficient for the ban; no evidence of damage to health is needed, in contrast to the procedures of the Health Protection Act. It is also possible to intervene with stricter requirements in situations where smoke spreads from one residence to another via the structures of the building.

  • Why is it forbidden to smoke in one's own car if the passenger is under 15?

    The ban protects children’s health, as research findings show that exposure to tobacco smoke, especially in small enclosed spaces, damages a child’s arteries and makes the child susceptible to heart and vascular diseases, asthma, allergic colds and bronchitis. The smoking ban in cars reduces children’s exposure to tobacco smoke and the health damage that this causes.

    The smoking ban is monitored by the municipality. There is no punishment imposed, however, for smoking in one’s own car with children present. The police do not monitor smoking in cars.

    It was desired that the ban on smoking in cars with under-15-year-olds present be written into the law even though there is no punishment imposed for contravening the ban. The law provides a clear indication that the act is not right and that smoking in cars results in suffering for the children exposed to it. The aim of the ban is also to strengthen social control in children’s close relationships. Conversation within the family about the matter is easier if smoke-free car journeys can be justified based on the law.

  • Why have electronic cigarettes been included in the Tobacco Act?

    According to the EU Tobacco Products Directive, electronic cigarettes had to be allowed onto the Finnish market. The products must fulfil the strict quality and safety requirements set by the directive, and they must have the warning messages required for nicotine products. In addition, the manufacturer and importer must report the products intended for the Finnish market to the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health at least six months in advance.

  • Why are electronic cigarettes regulated in the same way as normal cigarettes?

    A number of health-damaging substances have been found in liquids used in electronic cigarettes. There is not yet enough research information on the health effects of long-term electronic cigarette use. Electronic cigarettes often contain nicotine, which is an addictive and toxic substance. The desire is to minimise the risks associated with electronic cigarettes and the nicotine they contain, for example by setting age limits on their purchase, banning marketing and distance sales, and restricting flavourings, imports and use.

  • Why is the sale of snus permitted in Sweden but not in Finland?

    The sale of snus in EU countries has been forbidden since 1992, so Finland is not allowed to permit it to be sold. Sweden negotiated for itself an exemption from the ban when it became a member of the EU in 1995.

  • Why is there a ban on chewing tobacco and nasal tobacco?

    The objective of the Tobacco Act is to end the use of all tobacco products in Finland. The goal is not that cigarettes be replaced with smokeless tobacco products which are also harmful to people’s health. In addition, attempts have been made to get round the ban on snus by claiming, for example, that the product is in fact chewing tobacco, which was once permitted in Finland. Chewing tobacco and nasal tobacco can be sold until 20 May 2017.

  • How does the new Tobacco Act affect the private import of snus?

    According to the new Tobacco Act, it is permitted to bring a maximum of 1000g per day of snus, chewing tobacco and nasal tobacco into the country as a private import for one’s personal use. If, for example, there are 50g of snus in a snus packet, it is permitted under the new law to bring into the country 20 packets. If each packet contains 25g, then 40 packets can be brought in.

    Earlier, the private import of snus was restricted according to both quantity and weight: it was permitted to bring a maximum of 30 units weighing a maximum of 50g each. It was decided to move away from this restriction based on both quantity and weight in order to set an unambiguous weight-based limit for private imports.

  • Can unlimited amounts of tobacco products be brought in from Russia even from short trips?

    No. According to the new Tobacco Act, travellers living in Finland must be outside of Finland for over 24 hours in order to be allowed to bring tobacco products into the country from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Similarly, an individual coming from a non-EEA country must be staying in Finland for over three days into order to be allowed to bring tobacco products in Finland. These requirements are intended to prevent the illegal sale of tobacco products, which has been common especially around Finland’s eastern border.

  • Can tobacco products or electronic cigarettes be bought online?

    No. According to the new Tobacco Act, both international and domestic online sale and other kinds of distance sales are forbidden.

    The cross-border ban on distance sale of electronic cigarettes and nicotine-containing liquids will be applied as of 1 July 2017.

Further information