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Sweden threatens 'all out war' if EU attacks snus

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13:54 CET+01:00
Sweden's Trade Minister Ewa Björling said the EU faces "all out war" with Sweden if a new health directive on tobacco being hammered out at the European Commission threatens Swedish moist snuff "snus".

"This has been a low intensity conflict for years," Björling told the TT news agency after leaving a one-hour meeting with Tonio Borg, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.

"Depending on what the directive actually says... we're facing all out war."

Björling also took up the free market aspect of snus - reportedly telling Borg that snus faces trade limitations on the common market.

Last week, Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet reported that the Commission wants all tobacco products to contain at least 85 percent tobacco. Swedish snus, however, only contains about 50 percent.

Björling said that Borg denied that the directive will demand more tobacco in tobacco products.

Sweden famously got a "snus exception" when it joined the Union in 1994. Some medical experts say the use of snus, which is placed under the top lip, explains the relatively low lung cancer rate of Swedish men who might otherwise be smoking cigarettes.

"I told him very specifically that the position they take on this must be based on science," Björling said.

"I do not think they've done that before, which is clear for example when they say that all snus causes cancer."

Björling handed a letter from several Swedish researchers to Borg during their meeting, according to TT.

"I can't expose my combat strategy yet. We have to get the MEPs to work for snus, we have to exert influence on other members of the Council, and basically target every level we can," Björling said.

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Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt is scheduled to visit Brussels on Thursday for an EU summit.

TT/The Local/at

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