It is reported that the number of people using heated tobacco products has “swelled” in Estonia, despite there not being “a proper name” to describe them. It is all the more surprising as sales in Estonian shops is banned. Philip Morris International has been directing potential users to stores in nearby Latvia.
The Estonian government has debated smokeless tobacco products on a number of occasions over the last year but this should come to an end on Thursday with the publication of the new tobacco products regulation bill.
Tõnis Mölder, Social Affairs committee chair, says the committee has taken cues from the European Tobacco Products Directive in drafting the new legislation.
He said: "The other side of it is allowing to market new smokeless tobacco products. In truth, the directive obligates member states to comply in this regard."
The Ministry of Social Affairs takes a contrary position to the Social Affairs committee. Minister Tanel Kiik has stated that the proposal will open up Estonia to the marketing of “tobacco candy”.
Failing to understand the basic principles of tobacco harm reduction, Kiik said: “The aim of tobacco policy should be to reduce tobacco consumption. Allowing additional products entails the risk of the number of users growing that is not in the interests of public health.” He pointed out that snus had become increasingly popular among schoolchildren.
Mölder responded: “As our neighbours in the European Union have already adopted the directive in full, we will inevitably start seeing products here that shouldn't be allowed or sold here. In other words, we would be creating a favourable environment for the black market."
Philip Morris International still faces challenges to get its heat-not-burn product registered for sale though even if the bill is passed. Mölder pointed out that it only mentions the term “new smokeless products”, and so PMI would have to make an application for approval by stating which category IQOS falls into.
Annemari Linno said they would then consider the application based, "in terms of whether it has new properties or uses new technology." She added that chewing tobacco and snuff would remain banned from sale.
Mölder went on to speak about how the current ban is failing. Despite barring all flavoured eliquids from sale, he acknowledged there had been very brisk cross-border trade and the black market blossomed to fill the gap.
Riigikogu Smokeless Estonia support group has been campaigning for the regulations to be relaxed and flavours allowed for sale again, but Mölder remained unmoved: “Allowing these products to market will definitely result in more tobacco users.”