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Monday's papers: Tobacco leaf-free snus, racist speech online and lightning scare

Monday's papers discuss tobacco industry innovations, online hate speech and an aircraft struck by lightning.

Salamat iskevät taivaalta.
Image: Thierry Grun / AOP

Daily Lapin Kansa reports that cigarette manufacturers are in the midst of developing nicotine products that do not contain tobacco leaf. This helps the companies to circumvent regulation, the paper says.

Reetta Honkanen from the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health says the new products tend to resemble existing ones. For example, Swedish Match has recently launched Zyn – snus that contains between 7.5 and 15 milligrams of nicotine per gram, but no tobacco leaves. In addition, nicotine drinks are under development.

To be regulated by Finnish tobacco law, products must contain either tobacco plant or nicotine fluids used in electric cigarettes, Lapin Kansa explains.

“Zyn contains quite a lot of nicotine but it is nonetheless considered a tobacco replacement product,” Honkanen says. This is because in Finland nicotine is regarded as a medicinal substance which in turn is regulated by the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea).

For Zyn to be marketed in Finland, where the sale of snus is currently prohibited, the manufacturer would have to apply for a trading license at Fimea.

Eeva Ollila from the Cancer Society of Finland says the line between products maintaining nicotine addiction and those helping smokers to kick the habit has become finer.

“It is essential for tobacco companies that users maintain nicotine dependency because this ensures a market for their products continues to exist,” Ollila says.

In May, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health proposed modifications to Finland’s tobacco laws so that nicotine-based tobacco replacement products such as Zyn would fall under its regulatory regime as well.

Online hate speech

Meanwhile, daily Turun Sanomat (TS) reports that hundreds of police reports are filed every year concerning racist hate speech online.

An investigative unit within the police, which focuses on racist speech, started its work in March 2017. Over a 14-month period until the end of April this year, the group had filed about 300 reports, TS says.

About 40 percent of the cases involved suspected agitation against an ethnic group and 35 percent involved defamation. Other offences included unlawful threats and breach of religious peace.

According to chief superintendent Jouni Niskanen, who heads the hate speech unit, ethnic agitation takes place almost exclusively online.

”It’s easy to write on the Web and it’s an effective way to spread messages. Whenever something concrete happens, like a news report about a crime committed by an asylum seeker is published, people tend to become more active.”

Niskanen warns that even anonymous writers tend to get caught, because police can turn to US authorities to request information from YouTube, Twitter or Facebook.

”Some of the people we catch understand and regret their mistakes. But a majority argue they have not committed any crime. Instead, they believe that freedom of speech gives them the right to express opinions about individuals,” Niskanen says.

He advises people to avoid generalisation in online comments.

”One of the surest ways to become a suspect for online hate speech is to generalise a group of people, such as migrants. People need to understand that it is an individual who is responsible for a given crime, not the group as a whole.”

Lightning scare

A flight from Helsinki to Vaasa took a dramatic turn on Sunday afternoon after lightning struck the plane, tabloid Iltalehti reports.

Päivyt Tallqvist from Finnair confirms that flight AY315 with 47 passengers on board had to return to Helsinki following the lightning strike.

”A lightning bolt can cause a loud noise and to passengers the situation may seem scary, but airplanes have been designed to withstand such strikes,” Tallqvist adds.

In Helsinki, the aircraft was immediately taken in for inspection and passengers were put on another plane to Vaasa two hours later.

Each year, lightning strikes kill 1-2 people in Finland.

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