Order to change window display reveals vagaries of Norwegian enforcement

A vape store chain in Norway is under scrutiny from local authorities who claim it is violating advertising regulations with a big picture in the window showing the company’s CEO with an e-cigarette.

For the past five years Kristiansand Damputstyr, which has nine vape stores around the country, has featured in its windows a photo of owner Ruth-Elin Bergum Sveinall holding a vaping device.

Since the Tobacco Control Act came into force in 2017, the company has had 17 inspections of its shops without the poster coming into question. That changed three weeks ago with the opening of a store in the town of Grimstad in southern Norway.

The local health department considered the picture to be in violation of the rules on e-cigarette advertising and gave the company a week to take it down.

The local authority told ECigIntelligence the picture contravened the country’s advertising rules and warned of multiple fines if it was not removed within seven days.

 

Different interpretation

 

The Norwegian transposition of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) took the minimum approach to advertising restrictions, which are in line with what was established across Europe.

The law allows vape stores to advertise the name of the business, its opening hours and the range of products it offers, but images or moving signs are forbidden.

It is not clear why the Grimstad authority’s interpretation is so different from that elsewhere in Norway, especially as no new advertising restrictions have been imposed in the past two years.

“There are more shops in other cities with my picture on the window, but those were not brought into question,” Bergum Sveinall told ECigIntelligence.

She said she was ready to comply with the Grimstad order as long as the same restrictions were placed on all retailers.

 

‘Too smiley’

 

The local authority also required that the window displays, currently in translucent grey, should be replaced with an opaque white.

Vegard Vige, Grimstad council consultant tasked with the enforcement of tobacco legislation, said the store’s interior must not be visible from outside. He wrote in a letter: “This is the prerequisite for being able to have the goods lined up inside the store.”

In a bid to reach a compromise, Bergum Sveinall proposed replacing the existing picture with one showing her without an e-cig and changing the window displays as requested (pictured right). The council was not satisfied with this, however, saying she looked “too smiley” on the proposed picture. The local health department insisted she could not be displayed in any form, with or without an e-cigarette.

While taking all required steps to meet the new demands, Bergum Sveinall has asked for guidance from the Norwegian Directorate of Health in the hope of achieving a universal interpretation of the law.

 

What This Means: The Kristiansand Damputstyr case reveals the extent to which different Norwegian authorities take differing views on enforcement of the rules on tobacco advertising.

Until the nation’s health authorities provide clear guidance on how to follow the current regulation it will be a matter of individual understanding of the legal framework by each local council.

– Marija Obradovic ECigIntelligence staff

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