Joseph Hart 13 November 2023


What generates tax revenues, improves citizens’ health, and reduces crime? In the case of Finland, it’s sensible nicotine pouch regulations.

Yes, the same harm-reduction product that countries like the Netherlands and Belgium have banned positively impacts Finish society in each of these ways. And all it cost to implement these positive measures was common sense.

We’ve touched on these issues during the year, both when the new Finnish coalition government turned back the Social Democrats’ strangely regressive and anti-scientific nicotine pouch regulations and to decry how myopic anti-smoking regulations are a win for black market smugglers and no one else. So, it’s great to see that things are working out for the Finnish citizens.

Snus smuggling is down in Finland

As reported by several Finnish news outlets, border control seized 700 kilos of snus between January and September of 2023. If a tin of snus is around 20g, that works out to something in the region of 350,000 individual containers. The bright news is that during the same period in 2022, 3,500 kilos of snus were seized at the borders. That’s about 1.75m containers.

Most interestingly, these figures mean that by offering a legal alternative product, the black market importation of snus has dropped by a staggering 80%.

It’s also important to note that, per reports, surveillance methods have remained the same. So it’s clear that this is about Finnish people moving from snus to nicotine pouches. Hannu Sinkkonen, Finnish Customs Director of Surveillance, said, “In terms of timing, it can be said that the reduction in snus seizures occurred simultaneously with the liberalisation of nicotine pouch sales.”

It is worth noting that, according to Sinkkonen, “private smuggling” accounts for the decline and that more organised operations are still carrying snus over the border. Under the Finish custom rules, citizens can legally bring around 1kg of snus into Finland, but the regulations seem to have reduced these “grey market” activities.

It’s clear that there has been a sharp decline in demand and that legally sold snus benefits 

from economies of scale, which means lower prices for the consumer than grey or black market intermediaries could offer.

Smoking rates in Finland

The data on smoking prevalence in Finland is all over the map. Some sources suggest it’s around 10%, while others put the figure at over 20%.

The discrepancy could be explained by data from a fresh off-the-press October 2023 study, Changes in prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of tobacco and nicotine use in Finland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The authors state that daily smoking rates in 2020 were 12% among men and 9% among women. In comparison, occasional smoking rates were 7.6% and 5.9% respectively.

Whatever the precise numbers, Finland still lags behind its neighbour, Sweden, in terms of smoking prevalence. Of course, like the rest of Europe, Finnish smoking rates have declined in recent years, with many ex-smokers embracing alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and snus.

The exciting thing here is that legal, regulated, and taxed nicotine pouches can sate the Finn’s appetite for snus. Moreover, current smokers who want to quit now have a safe and legal pathway to access this harm-reduction product that doesn’t involve the hassle of getting a prescription and being given a weak product.

Final thoughts

Interest in effective anti-smoking products knows no borders. For years, Finns had to rely on smuggling to get their fix of snus. However, now that nicotine pouches are freely sold in the country, it has slashed the demand for smuggled snus by 80%.

Small, pragmatic changes to legislation can have significant effects. The Social Democrats’ deranged and puritanical approach to nicotine pouches was a symptom of a government that had lost touch with its people. There are lessons here for political parties worldwide.