ASH congratulates the Finnish president who signed a new law putting tobacco displays out of sight in shops. Finland joins a growing number of countries including Ireland, Canada and Norway that have adopted the measure to protect young people from tobacco marketing. [1] In several jurisdictions, including Scotland and England, tobacco manufacturers have initiated legal challenges to defend this highly effective marketing asset. [2]

The Finnish law does not stop at ending tobacco displays: it also makes it an offence for under 18s to possess tobacco products. Buying cigarettes on behalf of a minor becomes an offence punishable by up to 6 months in prison.

Martin Dockrell, Director of policy and research at the health charity Action on Smoking & Health said:

"Across the UK those who make and sell cigarettes have been fighting tooth and nail to overturn this legislation but the tide is running against them. Laws for smokefree public places started in a few small jurisdictions and rapidly spread across the globe. We are seeing exactly the same process here, the only question is: Will the UK be one of the first major economies to implement a display ban or will it be the first to cave in to tobacco industry pressure and reverse a law that has already been passed by parliament?"


[1] To date 5 countries have implemented tobacco display bans: Australia, Canada, Iceland, Ireland and Norway. The ban on tobacco displays in Finland will come into effect on 1 January 2012. A ban on the sale of tobacco products from vending machines will be implemented from 1 Jan 2015.

[2] Legal challenges have been issued in England, Scotland and Norway.

The following is a summary of the new Finnish tobacco law:

The new objective of the Tobacco Act is to put an end to the use of tobacco products in Finland. The purpose is to achieve this aim by preventing in particular children and adolescents from taking up smoking. Finland is the first country to lay down the aim of putting an end to smoking in a law. The Government proposed passing the bill on Wednesday 18 August. The purpose is that the President of the Republic will approve the proposed Act on Friday.

The purpose of the Act is to restrict the marketing and supply of tobacco products especially in the everyday life of children. Not only shops but also private persons may not sell or supply tobacco products to persons under 18. According to the Act, even selling one cigarette or fetching a packet of cigarettes from a shop to a minor person should be interpreted as a tobacco selling violation, for which the person can be fined or sentenced to prison for a maximum of six months. It is also forbidden to offer tobacco without payment to minor persons, but this is not punishable however.

People under 18 are forbidden to import and possess tobacco products. A fine can be imposed on import of tobacco products, but possession is not punishable under the law. In the future, also sellers of tobacco products must be aged at least 18 years.

There will be a total ban on the sale of snuff in Finland, as the ban on import and sale will be extended to also apply to private persons. Ordering snuff e.g. via the Internet will also be forbidden. A maximum of 30 packets, each containing 50 grams snuff, may however be imported for one's own use. It will be forbidden to import snuff as a gift.

The prohibitions against smoking will be extended e.g. in facilities used by children and young people, the joint facilities of apartment house companies, events organised outdoors and hotel rooms.

In the future, tobacco products or their trademarks may not be displayed in retail sale facilities. Customers can at their request be shown a catalogue or be given a printed list of the prices of the tobacco products on sale. Furthermore, the sale of tobacco products from vending machines will be forbidden. The Medicines Act is amended to the effect that nicotine preparations can be sold, besides in shops, kiosks and gas stations, also in restaurants.

The Act enters into force as soon as on 1 October this year. The prohibition on display of tobacco products as well as the restrictions on smoking in hotel rooms enter into force at the beginning of 2012. The vending machines for tobacco products will be forbidden as from the beginning of 2015.