​​​​​​​Standardised tobacco packaging in Norway

New regulation requiring standardised tobacco packaging came into effect on 1 July 2017, with a one year transition period. The purpose of introducing plain packaging is to prevent children and young people from starting smoking or using snus. Norway is one of several countries introducing plain packaging.

What is standardised or plain packaging?

Standardised design means that it is no longer permitted to use the manufacturer's logos, symbols, images, colours or other forms of design elements. The packaging must have a specific colour (pantone 448 C), and the brand name should be written in a standardised font. There is now a ban on import and sale of tobacco products that do not have a standardised design in Norway.

Which tobacco products are included?

Cigarettes, roll-your-own and snus must be in plain packaging. The reason for including snus is the dramatic increase in snus use among young people in the past 10–15 years. In the same period of time, there has been an increasing amount of new snus products with varied and appealing designs on the market.

For tobacco products mainly used by older and small consumer groups, such as cigars, cigarettes and pipe tobacco, there is no requirement for standardisation. The authorities will review this exception again if the user profile should change in the future.

Health warnings

All tobacco products must be labelled with combined health warnings with text and images showing the adverse health effects. The regulation on content and labelling of tobacco products contains detailed labelling rules. Norway's regulation is based on an EU directive, and will be changed due to changes in the EU regulations, probably in 2018.

This is an illustration of a standardised cigarette pack and snus box with new EU health warnings

One year transition period – deadline for new packaging

In order for manufacturers to have time to change the packages, there is a transition period of one year for products already on the market. New product variants are not covered by the transitional period and should have standardised packaging from the time they are introduced on the market.

After 1 July 2018 all cigarettes, roll-your-own and snus sold in Norway must be in plain packaging.

The purpose of standardised tobacco packs

The overall purpose of standardised tobacco packs is to reduce the number of young people who start using tobacco.

By limiting the packaging's advertising effect, tobacco products are made less attractive. The purpose of the measure is also to increase the effect of health warnings and minimise the risk that the package design gives a misleading impression of the health risk.

Studies show that users perceive standardised tobacco packaging as less attractive than the regular packs. Users also consider standardised packaging to contain a product of poorer quality and poorer taste.

Experience and effect

Norway is the fourth country in the world that introduces plain packaging, and the first country in the world to introduce standardised snus boxes without the manufacturer's logo and colours.

Good experience from Australia

A post-implementation review from the Australian Ministry of Health concludes that the introduction of standardised packaging has had the desired effect.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has gone through available research on standardised packaging of tobacco and reached the same conclusion: «In support of the research made on standardised tobacco packs, the assumption that standardised packaging of tobacco may change perceptions and attitudes that will in turn contribute to a decline in smoking.»

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health points out in its report that the available knowledge is very limited when it comes to the effect of standardised snus packaging. However, the few studies having been conducted indicate that the measure could help make snus less appealing to consumers.

Cross-border or distance sales of tobacco and e-cigarettes in Norway

Norway is a member of the EEA and there is currently an ongoing process to  incorporate the Tobacco Product Directive (2014/40/EU) into the EEA agreement. New rules and regulations regarding cross-border sales of tobacco and nicotine containing e-cigarettes in the Norwegian Tobacco Act will come into force when this process is finalized, probably early in 2018.

Until new rules come into force it remains illegal to sell e-cigarettes or e-liquids containing nicotine to Norwegian customers, unless the customer uses the right to private import the product according to the legislation for pharmaceutical products. For more information regarding the legislation for pharmaceuticals please contact the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

When the new rules come into force, all e-cigarettes and e-liquid containers (regardless of nicotine content) must be registered at the Norwegian Medicines Agency. All companies planning to do cross-border sales of tobacco and/or e-cigarettes and e-liquids, to or from Norway, or distance sales within Norway, must register with the Norwegian Directorate of Health. The registration systems are currently being set up and will be announced as soon as they are available.

Norway's tobacco control strategy

The Ministry of Health and Care Services launched its strategy in 2013 «A tobacco-free future. National strategy for tobacco control 2013–2016» (regjeringen.no)​.​ The strategy is prolonged and valid through 2017.

The vision is a tobacco-free future – a future in which individuals and communities are no longer affected by tobacco's many harmful effects on health and where children and adults live healthier and longer lives.

Goals of tobacco strategy

1. Prevent young people from taking up smoking and snus use

  • Children and young people born after the year 2000 shall not take up smoking or snus use
  • Daily smoking prevalence among children and young people (ages 16-24) should be below six per cent (2011: 11 per cent)
  • The sharp increase in daily snus use among children and adolescents (ages 16-24) should be halted (2011: men 25 per cent, women 11 per cent)

2. Motivate and provide assistance for snus and smoking cessation 

  • Daily smoking prevalence in the population (ages 16-74) should be below ten per cent (2011: 17 per cent)
  • Daily prevalence of snus use in the population (ages 16-74) should not exceed eight per cent (2011: eight per cent)

3. Protecting the population and society against the harmful effects of tobacco

  • No children should be exposed to second hand smoke
  • Smoking prevalence among pregnant women in late pregnancy should be below four per cent (2011: seven per cent)

Main measures

The correlation between tobacco use and the harmful effects on health is well documented. There is also broad knowledge of the measures that have proven effective when it comes to limiting and preventing tobacco-related damage. The broad approaches have the greatest long-term effect on tobacco consumption in a population. That is, the use of regulatory and economic policy instruments along with campaigns and initiatives in the health sector. The WHO FCTC emphasizes precisely the need for broad efforts across sectors.

Mass media campaigns, in addition to high taxes and restrictive legislation, shall prevent more people from taking up smoking and snus use. Those who currently smoke or use snus shall be offered professional cessation services.

Evaluation of Norwegian tobacco control

The Ministry of Health and Care Services invited the World Health Organization (WHO) to make an assessment of the Norwegian tobacco control efforts in 2010. WHO made several important findings, where some required swift action, while others needed a more long term strategy.

The April 2010 WHO report «Joint National Capacity Assessment on the Implementation of Effective Tobacco Control Policies in Norway» (regjeringen.no, PDF)​ is part of the basis for the new Norwegian strategy that was introduced in 2013.

Tobacco control policies and measures

​​​A comprehensive approach to tobacco control is often stressed as the most important way of reducing tobacco use.

Norwegian tobacco control policy has three main objectives: to prevent the onset of tobacco use by young people, to provide tobacco users with help and motivation to quit, and to protect third parties from exposure to tobacco smoke and tobacco use.​

Norwegian tobacco control legislation is restrictive, and has been so since the tobacco Act was enacted in 1975. When the Act was introduced, it was strongly underlined that legislation was only part of the plan and that other steps such as information, education and cessation activities were vital components of a comprehensive program. The policy makers at the time believed that a lack of balance between these components would impair the effectiveness of the tobacco control program. This has remained official policy to date.

Restrictive measures – legislation and taxation

The tobacco Act contains a total ban on advertising, compulsory pictorial health warnings on packages, as well as a tobacco display ban and ban on smoking in public transportation and public indoor environments. The act also prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors (under 18s).

Additionally, price increases and relatively high tobacco taxes are instrumental for supporting these health policies.

Tobacco cessation

Norwegian tobacco control policy has a strong focus on cessation. There is a public phone Quit-line (free of charge), as well as web-based and smartphone quitting services. There are community based smoking cessation courses. GPs assist smokers who would like to quit. These measures notwithstanding, there is still a substantial need for improved cessation activities.

Mass media campaigns

A new mass media campaigning strategy was launched in 2012, with fresh money and a five year perspective. Repeated and intensive mass media campaigns are effective measures to reduce tobacco consumption, as an integrated part of an otherwise comprehensive tobacco control strategy. Also from 2003 to 2007 mass media campaigns were successful and important parts of Norway's tobacco control efforts.

Prevention programmes

A central component in the youth prevention strategy is a three-year school-based program for youth between 13 and 15 years. The basic idea is to show pupils what it means to be a free and independent person responsible for own choices. The long-term health damages caused by tobacco control are only moderately focused on.

40 years with tobacco legislation​

A variety of legislative measures have been implemented during the tobacco control legislations' 40 years' history in Norway. ​The Norwegian Tobacco Act entered into force in 1975, requiring health warnings on tobacco packagings, a 16 year age limit and a ban on advertising of tobacco products. Today Norway is still considered a country with restrictive tobacco legislation.

EU directive implemented in Norway

The EU Directive 2001/37/EC concerning the manufacture, sale and presentation of tobacco products is implemented in national legislation, and the 2014 Directive will be integrated into the Norwegian legislation in 2017. Like Sweden, Norway has an exception from the EC ban on the sale of tobacco for oral use (moist snuff).

Legislative measures

The age limit for buying tobacco is 18 years. Since 1988, there has been legal protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in workplaces, and since 2004, even a complete ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. Designated smoking rooms were banned in 2014.

​To enhance the effect of the advertising ban, a ban on retail display of tobacco products was introduced in 2010. Norway's tobacco display ban was challenged in court by Philip Morris Norway, claiming it was incompatible with EEA law (freedom of trade). The case was tried in the Oslo District court in 2012, and the law was upheld by the court.

Since 2011 all cigarette packages have been required to be equipped with pictorial warnings, as well as reduced ignition propensity standards.

WHO tobacco convention

Norway was the first country to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (who.int)​, which entered into force in 2005. Norway has yet to ratify the Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products​. Norway's implementation reports are available at the FCTC website (who.int)​.

Milestones in N​​orwegian tobacco control​

Norwegian tobacco control policy has developed through several decades, and the tobacco Act has been revised numerous times since its adoption in 1973.​

​1965 The Norwegian Parliament (Storting) appoints an interdisciplinary committee to investigate what measures could be implemented to combat the health problems caused by tobacco use.​​​​
1967The committee's report is submitted: «Influencing Smoking Behaviour». Among the many suggestions were a ban on tobacco advertising and compulsory health warnings on all tobacco products.
1969The government presents a White Paper to the Parliament supporting the committee's proposals.
​​1971A governmental office for tobacco control is established; The National Council on Tobacco and Health.
​​1973 ​
The Act relating to Restrictive Measures for the Marketing of Tobacco Products etc. (the Tobacco Act) is sanctioned. Monitoring of smoking prevalence is started.
1975The Tobacco Act comes into force (advertising ban, 16 years age limit, labelling). Media campaign (large ads) in support of the new act.
​​1985 ​The National Council on Tobacco and Health presents the report «Clean Air for Everyone – The Right to Breathe Smokefree Air». It contains a proposal for provisions for a «clean air act».
1988The Clean Air Act is adopted. It provides for smokefree air in public locations and means of transportation. However, restaurants and bars were exempted.
​​1989Regulation banning new nicotine and tobacco products is adopted.
​1993​Restrictions on smoking in public restaurants and other hospitality places (bars, cafes, pubs, diskoteques etc). Smoking allowed in 2/3 of the establishment.
​1996 ​​​More restrictive measures in the Tobacco Act are enacted. These include a ban on smoking in open restaurants, provisions for smoke free schools, and an age limit of 18 for both sale and purchase of tobacco products. A free phone "quit-line" is established.
​1997​​Regulation is adopted which prohibits indirect advertising for tobacco products: «Regulation on prohibition of tobacco advertising, etc.»
​1998​Further restriction on smoking in public restaurants and other hospitality places (bars, cafes, pubs, diskoteques etc). Smoking only allowed in 50% of the establishment (as opposed to the previous 2/3).
​1999A long term strategy plan for tobacco control (1999–2003) is adopted by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and the National Council on Tobacco and Health. A National Cancer Plan allocates funds to provide several counties with personnel devoted to promote public health.
2002 ​​​​​​The EU Directive 2001/37/EC concerning the manufacturing, sale and presentation of tobacco products is implemented in national legislation: ban on misleading descriptors such as «light» and «mild», larger health warnings, and a legal basis for demanding disclosure of ingredients in tobacco products. The National Council on Tobacco and Health becomes a department under the new Norwegian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs.​
​2003​A bill concerning a total ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, cafes etc is passed by Parliament. The first national comprehensive mass media campaign on tobacco and health for many years is run in Norway, adapted from the Australian campaign «Every cigarette is doing you damage», followed by a campaign targeting the tobacco industry. Norway ratifies the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
​2004​A total ban on smoking in restaurants and bars takes effect 1 June. Mass media campaign on the right to a smoke free workplace.
​2005​The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) enters into force.
​2006​«National strategy for tobacco control 2006–2010» and «National strategy on COPD 2006–2011» is launched by the Ministry of Health. Large scale mass media campaign focusing on COPD.
​2007​The Ministry of Health wins a Supreme Court case concerning the smoking ban in restaurants and bars (smoking clubs).
​2009​​Regulations on pictorial warnings on tobacco products are adopted by the Government (in effect from 1 January 2010, with a transitional period until June 2011 for cigarettes and January 2012 for other tobacco products, except for smokeless tobacco).
​2010​A ban on the visible display of tobacco products at points of sale enters into force.
​2011​The Ministry of Health wins a Supreme Court case concerning the smoking ban on restaurants and bars (smoking outside). Pictorial warnings are required on cigarette packages. To reduce the risks of fire, reduced ignition propensity cigarettes are required.
​2012​New mass media efforts in January and August with focus on health risks and passive smoking respectively. The Ministry of Health wins a case in Oslo District court, after being sued by Phillip Morris Norway, claiming that the tobacco display ban violates the EEA agreement. The law is upheld b​y the court and the ruling is not appealed.​
​2013​Mass media campaign in January directed towards occasional smokers. Several legislation amendments enters into force, including a ban on packages smaller than 20 cigarettes, and a normative provision on children's right to a smoke-free environment.
​2014Several legislation amendments enters into force, including a prohibition for students to use tobacco during school hours, a ban on designated smoking rooms, smoke free entrance areas outside health care institutions and government agencies.​​
​2016​Parliament approves amendements to the legislation; plain packaging, bigger pictorial health warnings, e-cigarettes with nicotine will be allowed for sale and other amendments according to new EU directive.

Health and smoking prevalence – the situation in​​ Norway​

Twelve per cent of people aged 16–74 smoked daily in 2016. Smoking prevalence has dropped steadily in Norway since 1998, and young people are leading the​ way. Prevalence rates are published by Statistics Norway (ssb.no)​.

Smoking prevalence

In the early 1970s, 51 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women (aged 16-74) smoked daily. In 2016 there was practically no difference between men and women.

Apparently there was a shift in smoking prevalence around 1998. Since then, smoking prevalence has decreased among both men and women. The latest figures are found at Statistics Norway.

In 2016, about 3 per cent of young people aged 16–24 reported to be daily smokers. Five per cent of young men and 2 per cent of young women smoked daily. The prevalence of young daily smokers was reduced from 20 to 3 percent in the last ten years.

Low education is the number one explanatory factor for prediction of smoking prevalence. The difference in smoking prevalence between the none- or low-educated and the well educated, elucidates the importance of considering social inequality as a health issue.

Smokeless tobacco

For several years, the use of smokeless tobacco has been strongly increasing in Norway. In the population aged 16 to 74, 10 per cent were daily users and 5 per cent were occasional users in 2016.

The use of smokeless tobacco is mainly a male phenomenon. Among men, 13 per cent report using smokeless tobacco daily and among women, approximately 7 per cent use smokeless tobacco daily.

In the younger population, however, the prevalence is higher. Among people aged 16–24 years, 21 per cent of the men are daily users and 17 per cent of the women. The difference between boys and girls are much smaller today than it used to be.

Smokeless tobacco is now much more common than smoking among youth.

Deaths related to smoking

In Norway, it is estimated that about 6 600–6 700 persons die each year because of tobacco related diseases (2010).

Sist faglig oppdatert: 3. juli 2017