Wednesday 1 November 2023

Knives out for nicotine pouches

Swedish MEP Charlie Weimars has blown the whistle on the EU's plan to ban nicotine pouches. In a tweet (translated below), he provides a screenshot from a leaked report that crossed his desk.

A secret report I shouldn't have landed on my desk. In the report that will be presented to EU member states this week, there are two notable writings: (1) praise for how successful the snus ban has been and (2) a recommendation that the EU should extend the snus ban to the tobacco-free white snus (nicotine pouches). 

That the EU's snus ban is a success is completely wrong. It is actually snus that makes Sweden the only country in the EU that is on the way to reaching the UN's goal of a smoke-free society (defined as less than 5% smokers), which has saved many lives. A ban on white snus would have been a hard blow to the attempt to eradicate smoking in the EU. Unfortunately, the Swedish exception for tobacco snus does not apply to nicotine pouches. 

If the EU Commission and the member states accept the report's recommendation, white snus will also be banned in Sweden. Men have largely opted out of smoking in favor of snus, while women looking for less dangerous alternatives choose white snus more often. Therefore, such a ban would hit women extra hard. 

The report has been written by consultants who work for DG SANTE (EU health bureaucrats) and the writings probably would not have crept into the report if they did not have the support of the bureaucrats. Most likely this is a test balloon from the bureaucracy. If the proposal falls to the ground at the meeting with the member states, the bureaucrats can blame the consultants and if the proposal does not meet resistance, the bureaucrats can interpret it as a clear support and work on with a sharp proposal. 

This is how you often work in the EU's bureaucracy. The government must therefore already make it clear at the meeting this week that our country opposes a ban on white snus and work to ensure that citizens continue to have the opportunity to choose the least harmful way to use nicotine. Our negotiators are also welcome to raise the issue of the risks to public health of having too many do-gooding bureaucrats in DG SANTE.

The EU just can't help itself. Nicotine pouches contain no tobacco and are surely the safest recreational delivery devices ever invented. The European Commission claims that the "growing popularity of nicotine pouches raises serious public health concerns and represents an increasing challenge for the internal market". This is nonsense. The public health impact of these products is positive and the internal market is irrelevant, as the snus carve out for Sweden shows. 

These people are trying to eradicate nicotine from the world. They are nuts.

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