Sale of nicotine pouches in Finland from the perspective of the Tobacco Act
In the last few days, Valvira has received several queries about the sale of nicotine pouches in Finland, and the topic has also been discussed in social media. Nicotine pouches and nicotine snus generally refer to nicotine-containing products packaged into single-use pouches that, however, do not contain any tobacco. As a rule, nicotine pouches meet the definition of a tobacco substitute in the Tobacco Act and, as such, they generally fall under the Act. The term “tobacco substitute” means a product which corresponds to tobacco in its intended use but does not contain tobacco. The individual properties of each nicotine pouch determine whether the product is a tobacco substitute and what act applies to it.
In addition to the Tobacco Act, other legislation may apply to nicotine pouches and their sale. Economic operators must be familiar with the legislation applicable to their operations and the products they sell. The Tobacco Act does not apply to products that fall under the Medicines Act or products covered by the Narcotics Act or considered to be medical devices. For example, if a nicotine pouch product has been authorised under the Medicines Act, the Tobacco Act does not apply.
Importing of nicotine pouches and a notification of sale to authorities
The Tobacco Act does not restrict the importation of tobacco substitutes. However, it should be noted that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has already started preparing the amendment of the Tobacco Act. The preparation is based on the proposal presented by the working group for the development of tobacco and nicotine policy, according to which nicotine pouches would be subject to the same provisions that apply to regular snus. In practice, this would mean a sales ban and import limitations.
According to the Tobacco Act, manufacturers or importers of tobacco substitutes are not obliged to submit a prior notification to Valvira, unlike the manufacturers and importers of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, for example. Retail of tobacco substitutes in Finland does not require obtaining a sales licence from the municipality, and wholesale does not require submitting a notification to the municipality.
Sale of tobacco substitutes in Finland at the moment – things to consider
The sale of tobacco substitutes is permitted with limitations. Things to consider in the sale include:
- In retail, the display of tobacco substitutes and their trademarks is prohibited.
- All type of marketing or sales promotion of tobacco substitutes, such as social media collaboration or marketing in an online shop, is prohibited.
- The marketing of tobacco substitutes may constitute a marketing violation or a marketing offence.
- The commercial sale of tobacco substitutes to persons under the age of 18 is prohibited. This also applies to otherwise supplying or passing tobacco substitutes, such as trading or giving away.
- Sellers have a self-monitoring obligation. In practice, this means that economic operators selling tobacco substitutes must, at their own expense, prepare and implement a self-monitoring plan to ensure that the age limits set for sales are respected and unit packets comply with the obligations set out in the Tobacco Act.
- Sellers are obliged to continuously supervise purchase situations, requiring that a salesperson is present at the point of sale where the product is selected, paid and supplied to the customer. In addition to the continuous supervision, products cannot be sold to consumers by mail because products must be selected, paid and supplied under the continuous supervision of the seller.
- Other regulations also restrict the sale of nicotine pouches:
- The ban on price rebates prevents volume discounts, bonuses and customer loyalty programmes.
- The seller must be 18 or over or be under the supervision of another seller who is an adult.
- The use of automatic vending machines is prohibited.
Valvira has prepared several detailed guidelines on sales falling under the scope of the Tobacco Act, such as the guideline on retail online sales (in Finnish) (pdf). You can read the instructions here (in Finnish): Valvira’s guidelines under the Tobacco Act (valvira.fi).
Labelling requirements for unit packets of tobacco substitutes
The Tobacco Act does not provide detailed requirements for obligatory labelling of unit packets of tobacco substitutes. However, the marketing ban under the Tobacco Act also applies to tobacco substitutes, and labelling on the packets cannot be used to promote the sale of products, for example.
General rules on information to be provided on consumer goods are included in the Consumer Safety Act, the Government decree based on that Act, and the Language Act.
Municipalities and Valvira supervise the sale of nicotine pouches
Municipalities supervise compliance with the provisions on the sale, self-monitoring, marketing and display of tobacco substitutes in their respective areas. The National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) guides municipalities in their tasks under the Tobacco Act and supervises the marketing of tobacco substitutes in Finland. Within its mandate, Valvira provides guidance for other parties on administrative matters as needed and responds to queries on services.
Especially, Valvira responds to questions on the legislation applicable to the sale and marketing of tobacco products and similar products when economic operators need support for complying with the legislation, and:
- Activities are carried out in the area of more than one municipality; or
- The issue is open to interpretation, and advice from Valvira is required to harmonise the application of the law.
Valvira does not grant prior approval or authorisation for products or practices. The economic operator involved in the sale of products is responsible for the unit packets, labelling, characteristics, ingredients, notifications and compliance of the products referred to in the Tobacco Act.
Other competent authorities
Please contact the below authorities in the following matters:
- Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea: supervision of medicinal products and narcotics
- Finnish Customs: compliance with prohibitions and restrictions on importation
- Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes): supervision of chemicals
- Tax Authority: The Tobacco Act and tax issues
For further information at Valvira, please contact:
Please send inquiries preferably by email: [email protected]
Valvira news on 4 April: The Tobacco Act applies to nicotine pouches (valvira.fi)
News of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on 20 April: Comments requested on amendment to Tobacco Act concerning nicotine pouches (stm.fi)
News of the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) on 19 April: Chemical legislation also applies to nicotine pouches (in Finnish) (tukes.fi)
Fimea News on 4 April: Fimea supports legislative reform concerning nicotine pouches (fimea.fi)
Finnish Customs’ news on 4 April: Nicotine pouches are no longer classified as medicinal products (tulli.fi)
The Finnish Government’s news on 31 January on the proposals of the working group for the development of tobacco and nicotine policy (valtioneuvosto.fi)