NNA Smokefree Estonia is an affiliate organisation of the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) network. It is a member of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations (INNCO) and the European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA).
“Suspending the collection of excise duty will make it possible to lower the price of e-liquids and thus offer consumers controlled and safe products at a lower price. It has the potential to become a success story if we manage to reduce both the illicit trade and cross-border trade and at the same time offer less harmful alternatives to cigarettes at a more competitive price,” said Tarmo Kruusimäe, Member of the Estonian Parliament and Chairman of the Parliament’s Smoke Free Estonia Support Group.
The organization has calculated that self-mixed, cross-border and smuggled e-liquids account for approximately 62-80% of the entire Estonian e-liquids market. The Estonian excise duty on e-liquid has been 0.2 euros per milliliter since 2018. After it came into effect, Estonian vapers started purchasing e-liquids from neighbouring Latvia and Russia, where prices are much lower, and as the illicit trade of e-liquids began to grow, minors started becoming both sellers and buyers in the black market.
The flavour ban expanded the local black market
When in 2019 Estonia set in place a flavour ban, understandably the black market experienced another major boost. However other Estonian vapers once again turned to Latvia, in order to ensure they are obtaining their preferred flavours whilst ensuring European quality and safety requirements.
“Estonia’s example with over-taxation of e-liquids should definitely be an educational experience for other countries as well. If laboratory-tested and legal products are made too expensive for consumers, they will look for solutions in the black market, self-mixing and cross-border trade. Some people give up e-cigarettes and return to smoking, which happened in Estonia,” said Ingmar Kurg, CEO of NNA Smoke Free Estonia, and a member of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO).
MP Tarmo Kruusimäe said that with public health in mind, Estonia should follow the strategy of other European countries. “Estonia should follow the example of European countries which have realized that less harmful products can be used to quit smoking successfully, thus reducing the smoking rate. Estonia should also set itself the goal of becoming a smoke-free country and use the potential of less harmful products to achieve this,” added Kruusimäe.
Many vapers may keep mixing their own e-liquids
During the discussions in the Estonian Parliament, it was pointed out that while the excise tax suspension will draw some vapers back into the legal market, most users will still continue to add flavour components themselves in order to achieve their preferred taste, which is still potentially dangerous.
“The Estonian e-cigarette black market is like a stool standing on four legs – extremely high excise duty, flavour ban, e-commerce ban and other restrictions. Today, we are breaking the leg of excise duty from the black market stool to make legal e-cigarette liquids more competitive. It is in everyone’s common interest to offer adults a more diverse choice to quit smoking with less harmful products,” said Kruusimäe.