Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The cost of plain packaging in Norway: Make e-cigs legal

Yesterday one of the big stories in Norwegian media was that our health minister, Bent Høie, wants to introduce plain packaging here in Norway. He is on a mission to get people to quit smoking and to stop young people from starting so his plan is to make the cigarette and snus packaging as ugly as possible. As many of you know, snus is legal in Norway and Sweden, but even though it has been given credit for Swedens record low cancer rates, Høie is also going after the snus-boxes and wants them to be ugly as well. Kind of weird when he states this on a press conference with the Norwegian Cancer Society (http://goo.gl/CHHx5e):
Many have replaced smoking with snus. That means that a lot of young people are starting to use tobacco, says Bent Høie, that also states that using snus is less harmful than smoking, adding that 20 percent of young girls is unable to quit when they get pregnant.
As I've emphasized above it's clear that Høie has not quite understood the concept of harm reduction.

However, it might seem that Høies crusade to introduce plain packaging has sparked up the e-cigarette debate again here in Norway. Harald Tom Nesvik from Frp, which is the other party in Norways government (in addition to Høie's party Høyre) said this to one of Norway's biggest newspapers yesterday:
Frp has not yet taken a position to the Health minister's proposal, we will do that later in a group meeting. Personally I think it is pretty intrusive in the trading of an after all legal product. But as a minimum for supporting this, it has to become legal to sell e-cigarettes in Norway.
So what does that mean? Well, it means that if Nesvik's statements becomes Frp's position on this matter, and if Høie wants Frp's support for plain packaging (which he needs to make it happen) he will have to make e-cigarettes, with nicotine, legal for sale here in Norway. Well that is kind of a surprising turn of events. It's still very unclear though, what Frp actually mean by repealing the sales ban. They are talking about making it legal as a smoking cessation product, whatever that might mean. And they still need the support of other parties, so as of now it is quite unclear what this will lead to. But at least the debate is in the media again. In an editorial in the same newspaper, VG, they make it very clear what their position on the matter is, which is very positive as this is one, if not the biggest newspaper here and winning the media is the key to winning this battle:
It had been far more appropriate to devote time and resources to help those who want to quit by easing rules for the trading of e-cigarettes.
Now I want to finish this post by making it clear that I by no means support the government parties, Høyre and Frp, and I would never vote for them even if they would make vaping legal in a wisely regulated form overnight. There are a lot of more important cases than vaping, and these parties are also the ones responsible for sending a lot of families with children out of the safety here in Norway and back to an uncertain future in countries ravaged by war. I'm not going to go into a long political rant here, but their efforts to wipe out everything that has made Norway one of the safest and best countries to live in is by no means something I'd support... ever. But still, the current situation is that they are the government parties right now, and if they repeal the ban on e-cigarette sales, it's better than if they didn't, even if I would much rather have seen it done by another political party.



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