The Swedish government has proposed a bill to ban almost all vape flavors. This would leave tobacco flavored ejuice as the only option for vape enthusiasts in the near future.
The ban, along with many other misguided acts of legislation across the world, has come as an effort to reduce the number of underage vapers in the country. This belief that flavor options are drawing in underage vapers may hold some truth, but it also forms the basis of why vaping is just so attractive for those attempting to quit smoking. It should come as no surprise that the appeal of these flavors promotes more benefits than harms when comparing smoking cessation to underage vaping.
If passed, the proposed law, as part of the “Stricter rules for new nicotine products,” is scheduled to go into effect at the very beginning of 2023. The new law will also result in stricter rules for synthetic nicotine. In doing this, no person under the age of 18 will be able to purchase e-liquids containing synthetic nicotine, something that is not currently regulated in the country.
In the case of Sweden, a country generally touted for their incredibly low smoking prevalence, this severe ban seems somewhat out of place. The link typically cited by lawmakers between vaping in young adults and smoking adults is one that does not exist as significantly as in some other countries, making the decision seem even more misguided. Sweden already boasts one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe, with a mere 6% prevalence in young adults. Furthermore, Sweden even saw a decrease in underage smoking in 2021.
Sweden’s apparent success in keeping people from smoking is often self-attributed to the wide consumption of snus. Despite huge popularity in Sweden, it has been banned across the rest of the European Union since 1992.
A Little Background Information
Flavored e-liquid ban legislation has already made its way through eight European countries, with countries such as Denmark, Lithuania and the Netherlands having their bans beginning within the coming months of 2022. Other European countries such as Estonia, Finland, Hungary, and Ukraine already have bans set in place.
According to Michael Landl, director of the World Vapor’s Alliance, approximately 150,000 former smokers will likely return to tobacco smoking should the ban be passed. This follows suit with a study that has shown that the wide variety in flavored e-liquid is what is drawing many adults away from traditional smoking and into vaping.
“Banning flavors could force thousands of former smokers in Sweden to take up the habit once again. Research shows vapers are more than twice as likely to quit with flavors. If they are banned, 150,000 vapers – the equivalent of almost the entire population of Uppsala – would lose their flavors and could go back to smoking. This would be a major setback in the fight against smoking and its related illnesses,” Lindl said.
The Role of Snus in Sweden and the Rest of the World
Snus is a Swedish smokeless tobacco product that has been used for hundreds of years in the region. These products consist of pouches of moist tobacco powder that are placed under the top lip. This form of smokeless tobacco is incredibly similar to snuff, a well known smokeless tobacco product with clear health concerns.
The smokeless tobacco product has been championed by the Swedish communities as an alternative way for smokers to achieve their nicotine fix. Although its popularity is growing in countries across the world such as the United States and South Africa, snus is still relatively unknown compared to vaping. Despite this, there are some known health implications that are specific to smokeless tobacco such as snus and its loose tobacco counterpart snuff.
These health risks are typically related directly to the fact that these products still contain tobacco and all the harmful chemicals within. This means vapes and e-cigarettes still offer a safer way to administer nicotine.
Snus May be Safer, But it is Not Safe
While the research into snus is not nearly as conclusive as vaping, the CDC does recognize the most clear issues with snus – being the direct application of tobacco to the mouth. The most common health implications thought to be associated with snus are strikingly similar to those of traditional cigarette smoking, barring those related directly to the lungs.
These risks include cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas. That being said, snus is still praised as far safer than traditional smoking, allowing it to be seen in many communities as an effective harm reduction method. Alternatively, the potentially soon-to-be-banned vaping offers a far safer way to administer nicotine, with far fewer health implications.
Another European state opting for a flavor ban presents a sense of regression for the vape community. After years of disproving continuous scrutiny, it can only be seen as a loss that flavored e-liquids are still being cited as the chief cause of underage vaping.
By removing one of the most appealing features of e-cigarettes and vapes, Sweden may be undoing their already low underage smoking rates. Should the ban be made into law, a rise in young adult smoking may be seen in the near future.
Despite the popularity of snus in the specific case of Sweden, vaping still remains as the better option for smoking cessation. Vaping offers a far more authentic experience for those who are attempting to remove cigarette smoking from their lives. Not only this, the extremely wide variety of flavors is one of the most attractive prospects of vaping – not only amongst underage users.
This begs the question of why Sweden, and the other countries mentioned, would opt for such strict bans on flavored e-liquids when there are more complex health implications related to the usage of snus. Worse yet, this would mean that the country would have no effective tobacco harm reduction methods available at all. Further still, why would Sweden risk reverting both underage and adult vapers to traditional cigarette smoking? It’s safe to say that a ban on vaping flavors will do more harm than good in Sweden.