Sweden’s government has pledged to continue to fight for the lifting of the EU-wide ban against moist snuff or ‘snus’, in the face of what it calls European “ignorance” of the smokeless tobacco product.
Sweden is the only country with an exemption for the sale and marketing of snus and the country has long battled for the EU wide ban to be lifted.
A recent survey of member state opinion conducted by the EU Commission indicates however that Sweden has little support among its European partners.
“Many people don’t know what snus is. This is also a result of the fact that there is a ban on the export of Swedish snus,” Swedish trade minister Ewa Björling told the TT news agency.
Björling has received the support of tobacco giant Swedish Match which argues that the greatest hindrance to lifting the ban is ignorance of the product itself.
“If the Commission would look at the scientific documentation concerning snus and if you follow EU principles regarding, for example, freedom of movement, then we find it very hard to see that the snus ban would survive,” said Patrik Hildingsson, information director at Swedish Match.
Sweden’s National Institute of Public Health (Folkhälsöinstitutet) warns however that scrapping the ban could affect both attitudes to snuff and increase the use of snus, a product that it argues offers only adverse health effects.
“Based on the knowledge that exists about health risks and dependence, we think it should be limited, but ultimately it is politicians who decide,” said Åsa Domeij, who heads the institute’s drug prevention unit.
Not all member states have responded to the survey conducted by the European Commission, but of those who have there is a clear majority in favour of a blanket ban on all types of smokeless tobacco.
This fact has however not given Ewa Björling cause to give up hope that Italians and other EU members will gain the right to buy snus in their home countries.
“This is not decided and we will continue to fight. I’m not going to give up because I think this ban is unfair,” she said.