Saturday 21 April 2012

Snus: More prohibition?

It seems that the EU’s grudging toleration of Swedish snus use may be coming to an end. On Thursday, the Scandinavian press were reporting that the European Commission has announced its intention to ban a range of flavourings from tobacco products, such as sugar, licorice and menthol, which are needed to make most varieties of snus palatable.

Patrik Hildingsson, Communications Director at Swedish Match, the nation’s largest snus manufacturer, says the ban would “affect our entire portfolio, a number of flavours that have been available for more than 200 years”.

It is a sign of snus’s popularity that the possibility of a de facto ban led to a resurgence in Swedish Euroscepticis, with the hashtag #snusriot trending on Twitter and one tweeter writing: “I'm not a snus user, but the day the EU dictates what we Swedes put under our lips is the day I stand up to protest.” The Commission says that its ban on flavourings is aimed primarily at cigarettes, but it has not ruled out applying it to all tobacco products.

If so, the EU may have a fight on its hands, as Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “I expect that we, the Swedish representatives, will vote out the proposal – and that the Swedish Government will vote against the EU Council of Ministers.”

The Swedish government has long complained that the EU ban on snus lacks scientific foundation and should be overturned. Sweden now enjoys the lowest smoking rate and the lowest lung cancer rate in the whole of Europe, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by public health experts in Britain, including the Royal College of Physicians and the former director of Action on Smoking and Health, Clive Bates, who have questioned the wisdom of banning the least hazardous form of tobacco while cigarettes remain freely available.

The box below illustrates the 'Swedish Experience' nicely...

It had been hoped that the new Tobacco Product Directive, due to appear in 2013, would see the EU repeal the ban on snus, thereby allowing other countries to benefit from Sweden’s natural experiment in harm reduction. As Swedes prepare for a ‘snus riot’, it seems that the Commission is moving in the opposite direction.

Today, there are similar noises coming from Norway, which has seen benefits from snus use although these have been hampered by widespread ignorance amongst doctors and smokers about the health risks of snus (of which there are very few).

Norway May Ban Swedish Snuff in Five Years

National Council for tobacco prevention advocates a total ban on the increasingly popular form of tobacco, Snus (Swedish Snuff).

According to TV2's report, "National Council for Tobacco Prevention expects the number of diseases that are related to snuff will continue to increase", writes the Council in a report to Ministry of Health and Care.

The council advised that sales of snuss should be prohibited after 2017, just as it is now banned in all EU countries except Sweden.

This is all excellent news for cigarette companies, for whom flavoured cigarettes are a negligible segment of the market and whose business is threatened by people turning to the vastly less hazardous alternative of snus.

When anti-smoking groups start helping the cigarette industry, it might be time to stop and rethink the strategy.


dearieme said...

Or you might think it's time to stop and hang the buggers.

Anonymous said...

They are worried that the snus ban is going to be lifted so it seems they want to kill the snus industry prior to the 2013 outcome.

Anonymous said...

If this was about public health, the tyrants would ban cigarettes FIRST. This is about building a tyranny by restricting the freedom of people one step at a time. Banning snus must have seemed live an easire first step.