Thursday, 4 February 2016

E-cig regulation in Norway: A short status update

This Christmas I was sure I was going to be able to do more writing and keep you guys up to date on the situation in Norway. I turned out quite the opposite from what I expected, and for reasons I'm not going to talk about here, I haven't been able to do much writing at all. Neither do I think there will be much time in the months to come either, but I'll try to write some updates (and some reviews) when I can. Hopefully things will change in time and I hope I can get this blog up and running full speed again some time in the future.

Anyway, as many of you might be aware of already, the Norwegian government, or actually the Ministry of Health and care services, have proposed to legalize the sale of e-cigarettes in Norway... TPD style (follow the links in that post for more background info). I find this quite important so I've tried to squeeze in a little time to give you an update now.

The Norwegian parliament
The Ministry of Health and care services have requested comments on the proposal and the deadline for replying to this was January 18th. They received quite a few interesting comments, which can all be found here for those who read Norwegian or are skilled in the use of google translate. A lot of vapers took their time to comment and express their concern, and The Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS) both wrote excellent answers, clearing up misunderstandings, explaining consequences and attempted to educate the politicians in the best way possible. They've done an excellent job and hopefully some politicians will take notice and understand some of what they're going to regulate. However, for some of them, like Cecilie Brein-Karlsen I have no hope. Sadly some of our politicians (quite a few actually) believe that we do not have a choice in this at all, and that we just have to do whatever the EU tells us to do. Actually, I do think most of them are in fact aware that we have an option to use our reservation right, not being a full member of the EU, but they just don't have the balls to go against the EU in this case... or any other case for that matter. I guess they simply lack balls.

There were also quite a few others who commented on the proposal.Some like the proposal as it is, saying that they think e-cigarettes are a great idea, which shows they have no idea what this proposal will do to vaping. Others want to keep e-cigarettes with nicotine illegal and even want stricter rules. All of these seem to be pretty convinced by the gateway theory. This again shows the devastating effects of copy-paste scaremongering journalism. The only time all the evidence against the gateway theory mentioned in Norwegian media is when Karl Erik Lund from SRUS is in some way involved. He has done a great job at this, and it is also included in SIRUS' comments to the proposal. However this does not get much attention and protecting the children, avoiding a vaping boom among never smokers and even worse... 2nd hand vaping making more people smoke cigarettes seem to be the main arguments used by those who support the proposal (and those who want even stricter regulations). Some even claim that a lot of never smoking youth have already picked up vaping on a regular basis (!). They should know better than to lie about these things to be honest. And all of this despite the fact that we've seen that smoking prevalence in Norway is dropping faster than ever after snus and vaping gained popularity. When it comes to certain politicians I also suspect other motives that has nothing to do with wanting a public health gain.

Sadly I haven't really had the time to read all the answers, I've barely scratched the surface of some of them, so the above is just based on my first impressions. However I found one answer that looked quite interesting as well, from British American Tobacco Norway. They argue against a lot of the suggestions in the proposal, like advertising bans, ban in public areas etc. and use SIRUS' answer for support as well. Have a look at this for example:
BAT endorses the views set out in SIRUS' consultation response that e-cigarettes should be regulated as ordinary consumer products, and the Ministry should, as a minimum, examine this alternative.
So that is about where we stand today. There are some very good arguments in some of the comments submitted, and there are some very bad ones, and there are quite a few lies in there as well. We can only hope that the politicians are doing their job and actually try to educate themselves, but I'm not overly optimistic when it comes to this. It's not easy to find any dates or what happens next. Still I guess this will follow regular procedure which would be the that the parliament committee will recommend an amendment to the Norwegian Tobacco Act and the parliament will the vote. Exactly when this will happen I don't know, but I guess some time before May.

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