On Monday, the Riigikogu passed a law that allows the sale of novel heated and smokeless tobacco products. In addition, the law allows the addition of menthol flavor in e-cigarettes.
A government-initiated bill amending the Tobacco Act and the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act passed the final vote in the Estonian parliament.
The amendments enable adding the taste and smell of menthol to electronic cigarettes as well as annulling the general ban on the sale of smokeless tobacco products, and permit the handling of novel smokeless tobacco products.
Bans remain in effect on tobacco products for oral use, chewing tobacco, snuff and other smokeless tobacco products. The Tobacco Act will be amended to include a new category - heated tobacco products.
A pan-European track and trace system for tobacco products is to be implemented to curb illicit trade, whereas some regulations on tobacco products will be relaxed.
As one part of the system, a unique identifier facilitating the checking of the authenticity of tobacco products will be introduced.
In Estonia, a tax stamp consistent with the requirements of the relevant European Union legislative act will serve as the unique identifier.
In cases where the unit packets of tobacco products do not carry a tax stamp, such as in duty-free shops, a security tag of the producer must be placed on the product.
The bill was passed with 74 votes for, 12 against and no abstentions.
Menthol cigarettes to disappear from Estonian market from May 20
Menthol cigarettes will disappear from the market of Estonia and all other European Union member states from May 20.
The ban will not prohibit the smoking of such cigarettes, nor does it apply to waterpipe tobacco.
Tastes in cigarettes other than the taste of tobacco are prohibited in the European Union since 2016. The longer transition period for menthol-flavoured cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco until 2020 was granted as an exception, head of the public health department at the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs Aive Telling told BNS.
The requirement stems from the EU tobacco directive, which Estonia transposed into its law. A shorter transition period for flavors added to cigarettes and smoking tobacco other than the flavor of menthol was in effect until May 20, 2017.
The ban is valid for all technical options enabling to add a taste to cigarettes, such as filters, capsules and other means. At the same time, it applies only to cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco, but not to waterpipe tobacco and waterpipe cafes.
The restriction does not concern the consumption of menthol-flavoured cigarettes, which means that cigarettes bought before the ban takes effect and cigarettes bought in third countries can still be consumed.
"The purpose of the change is to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and thereby the starting of smoking. Different strong tastes are added to cover up the unpleasant taste of tobacco, and it is mistakenly believed that flavored cigarettes are less harmful," Telling said.
"Flavored tobacco products are usually the first products used when people start smoking, as different strong tastes conceal the unpleasant taste of tobacco. Surveys conducted in the United States show that the consumers of flavored tobacco products mostly are young people," the official said.
Telling said that flavored tobacco products, mostly menthol-flavoured products, are marketed to specific target groups, especially young people and women.
"Menthol is one of the most common flavors used in the tobacco industry, which has been added to tobacco products already since the 1920s to cover up the harshness of cigarettes," she added.
Editor: Helen Wright