Will the Tobacco Act change smoking on balconies?

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 18.8.2015 16.08
News item

The Tobacco Act is being reformed. The reform is partly connected with the EU's Tobacco Products Directive, which must be implemented in the member states by 20 May 2016. Ministerial Advisor Meri Paavola tells us what the new Tobacco Act proposes and why a new Tobacco Act is needed.

Text version of the interview

Why do we need a new Tobacco Act?

"A complete reform of the Tobacco Act is needed for many reasons. The EU's Tobacco Products Directive requires several changes and national reforms are also necessary.  Furthermore, the Tobacco Act is 40 years old, dozens of amendments have been made over the years and its structure has become very fragmented."

What does the new Tobacco Act propose?

"Among other things, the Tobacco Products Directive addresses the packaging of tobacco, picture warnings and also brings electronic cigarettes within the scope of tobacco legislation. With regard to national reforms, I would like to mention the possibility to more easily restrict smoking on balconies and further restrictions on importing snus so that only half a kilogram can be imported for personal use as opposed to the current limit of 1.5 kilograms."

Why will picture warnings become compulsory in addition to text warnings?

"The Tobacco Products Directive requires picture warnings. The saying that 'a picture is worth a thousand words' is quite apt in this case.  It has been demonstrated that adding picture warnings to text warnings increases the effectiveness of the warning messages concerning how dangerous tobacco is. Picture warnings are already used in many countries around the world and in at least 10 European nations. ”

Will the Tobacco Act change, for example, smoking on balconies?

"Smoking on balconies has proven to be a very big problem. The ministry receives a lot of feedback about it, and restrictions on balcony smoking have been discussed for a long time. This proposal does not forbid smoking on all private balconies. However, the proposal does make it easier for a housing company to ban smoking on balconies if it can be demonstrated that smoke enters a neighbour's apartment or balcony.  However, this would require a statement from the health authorities, specifically concerning how the smoke spreads.  The existing legislation requires that a health hazard be demonstrated, and it has proven to be very problematic."

What is the purpose of banning the use of various smells and tastes, such as menthol, in cigarettes?

"The ban is based on the Tobacco Products Directive. Taste ingredients appeal to young people in particular, and these restrictions are aimed at preventing this appeal. For example, many young people begin smoking with menthol cigarettes. Menthol makes it easier to inhale tobacco smoke, because it numbs the throat and also disguises the taste of tobacco."

The proposal would regulate electronic cigarettes in the same manner as ordinary cigarettes. Why?

"In practice, the Tobacco Products Directive forces Finland to allow electronic cigarettes containing nicotine to be placed on the market and sold. However, nicotine is a toxic ingredient that causes serious addiction. Electronic cigarettes have also been proven to contain several other ingredients that pose health hazards. Furthermore, since this is such a new product on the market, there is no research data on the health impacts caused by long-term use of electronic cigarettes. For these reasons, we want to minimise the risks of electronic cigarettes and they will be regulated as strictly as tobacco products. In summary, the proposal would forbid the use of taste ingredients in electronic cigarettes, ban their display, set an age limit – they would not be sold to anyone under the age of 18 – and ban their use in places where smoking is not allowed."

Interview: Leena Salonen
Video: Kimmo Vainikainen