New law to prescribe hefty fines for MMS peddlers

MMS, previously sold as mouthwash, is now illegal in Estonia.
MMS, previously sold as mouthwash, is now illegal in Estonia. Source: ERR

The planned Public Health Act aims to give the Health Board broader powers to combat harmful beauty and medical services providers and prohibit tanning salons and tattoos for minors.

The Estonian state has been plagued by promoters of pseudoscience who recommend the use of household chemicals to treat various medical conditions. Symptoms of poisoning that have accompanied the use of MMS, such as nausea, vomiting etc. have been explained as medicinal properties manifesting. Unfortunately, naive people have also used the chlorine solution to "treat" their children and pets.

While the Health Board has lacked clear levers with which to rein in poison sellers until now, incoming legislation aims to give it new powers and prescribe heftier fines for those selling harmful substances marketed as beauty or healthcare products.

"The law will provide a clearer framework for beauty and harmful and potentially hazardous healthcare services," Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said. "If a person or company offers a harmful product or service, it goes beyond telling people innocent fairy tales. It is dangerous and requires state intervention. Factual and accurate information needs to be provided when offering whichever products and services," the minister said.

The law focuses on health damage. Peddling of crystals that are promised to help a person find love or cleanse their karma can continue unhindered.

"Crystals without any effect do not directly harm people's health, while the state needs to be more resolute than previously when it comes to harmful substances like MMS – there needs to be a way to stop advertising of such products in its tracks. The state cannot simply look on as peddlers say they are selling detergent and cannot be held responsible for people drinking it in a situation where we all know why these products are really offered, also to children," Kiik said. "Damage caused by pseudo medicine mounts over time and has become especially evident in the coronavirus crisis where people are offered households chemicals to treat a serious disease, which some people unfortunately end up taking. It is incomprehensible how one can make money off harming other people's health. The state has been too lenient in this matter. The onslaught of pseudo medicine has been intensive and caused a considerable spike in public health risks."

Persons and companies can be fined for selling as medicines something that harms people's health. And the fines will be much higher than previously. Legal persons can be fined up to €50,000 for selling harmful cosmetic products, €80,000 for offering harmful beauty services and up to €100,000 for failure to comply with the obligation of warning against adverse effects, such as selling MMS and not telling people about its harmful health effects.

"The current fine amounts are outdated. The punishment needs to be effective enough to ward off peddlers," Kiik explained.

The new law will also ban offering tattoos and tanning salon services to minors based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization that has classified sunless tanning as cancerogenic. While it has been possible to offer these services to minors who have their parent's written permission until now, companies must verify the age of all customers or risk having to pay the aforementioned fines once the law enters into force.

The bill that has been in the works for nearly a decade will come up for its first reading on January 12.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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