Friday, 27 June 2014

Vaping in Norway: Legal if you're quitting, illegal if you enjoy it

Careful now! Someone might suspect you enjoy
Norwegian laws and rules can be quite weird some times. Our regulatory authorities love their precautionary principle and new inventions are considered dangerous as hell until proven otherwise. Segways for instance, was banned until July 1st this year. From 1978 until 1989 skateboards were forbidden. Nope, I'm not joking, google it if you don't believe me. The reasoning behind the ban was that they had seen a lot of accidents in other countries and they wanted to protect the children (yeah... sounds familiar right?). So of course e-cigarettes are banned here as well. Or are they?

The answer, it turns out, is both yes and no. I came across this article on a Norwegian web-magazine a while ago, trying to explain the rules: It investigates the rules on e-cigarettes in Norway, and it seems like the conclusion is this: It's legal, as long as you don't enjoy it. 

Today e-cigarettes and e-liquid containing nicotine is illegal to sell in Norway, but it is legal to buy and use. But not for everyone. The thing is, we have a law forbidding any new nicotine product, including e-cigarettes. However new nicotine products like gum and patches turn up all the time, and this is legal because they are used as medicines to quit smoking. And even though e-cigarettes are not legal to sell here, they are actually regulated as pharmaceutical products, and pharmaceutical products can be imported from countries in the European Economic Area for personal and medicinal use. This means you have to use it to quit smoking, and Norwegian customs can therefore stop your packages at the border and ask for documentation that you are actually using it to quit smoking. So you'll have to find a doctor willing to give you this documentation... and from what I've seen in forums, most doctors will do this without hesitation. I haven't asked my doctor for such documentation, but I wonder what he would say. I'm not vaping to quit smoking any more, I quit 2 years ago. But I am using them to avoid relapsing... does that count? I'd have to lie to say I don't enjoy it as well. And, according to the law, e-cigarettes used for enjoyment are regulated as a new nicotine product (instead of a pharmaceutical product it would be if I didn't enjoy it), and therefore illegal. So in Norway one product can be both legal and illegal at the same time, depending on if you're using it for enjoyment or not. Why didn't the guys who banned skateboarding think of that? It could have been legal if as long as you only used it as a means of transport (making sure you didn't have fun on the way).

The author has asked Norwegian customs about this and they say that due to the increase of packages containing e-cigarettes and e-liquid they can't ask for this documentation in every case. They say that they now just assume that people are using it to quit smoking, so in practice you really don't need to ask your doctor anyway.

Now, e-cigarettes and e-liquids without nicotine on the other hand, are legal to sell in Norway. Not without some restrictions though: advertising is banned, there is an 18 year age limit, and you can't claim that zero nicotine e-liquid and e-cigarettes are healthier than smoking. Cause if you do, the e-cigarette is defined as an unapproved pharmaceutical product.

Any of this make any sense to you? Nah... not to me either.

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  1. Last year I tried to buy nicotine base from pharmacy at Finland with prescription for 10% nicotin and 90% glyserin but it turned out that there are no medical approved nicotine available anywhere in the world. The prescription was for ex tempore prescription, basically pharmacy DIY. Story in Finnish:

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