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Sweden wants EU 'snus' tobacco ban to go up in smoke

AFP · 15 Sep 2009, 09:07

Published: 15 Sep 2009 09:07 GMT+02:00

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The small, teabag-like pouches, also called moist snuff, are used by nearly one million Swedes. Placed under the user's lip, they quickly deliver a nicotine rush to the blood and a strong salt and herbs flavour in the mouth.

While cigarette sales have tumbled by 50 percent in Sweden over the past 30 years, snus is on the up, with sales rising from some 2,500 tonnes a year in the 1970s to almost 7,500 tonnes in 2008.

That equals some 800 sachets a year for the average Swedish snus user.

It is also popular in other parts of the Nordic region.

In Norway, outside of the EU, some 400,000 people use it on a regular basis while 100,000 Finns have to travel to Sweden to stock up, official data shows.

Sweden is the only EU member state where sales are permitted after it obtained an exemption when the European Union banned snus in 1992.

With many member states also banning smoking in public places, tobacco industry giants are looking to tap into this potentially lucrative market.

Swedish Match, the number one snus manufacturer in the Nordic country, reported sales of 660 million euros ($965 million) in Sweden in 2008.

The snus ban could be set for review in 2010 and Swedish Match's head of public affairs, Patrick Hildingsson, said that would provide "a window of opportunity" to make their case for legalisation elsewhere.

In February, Philip Morris International set up a joint venture with Swedish Match and last year British American Tobacco snapped up Sweden's second-biggest cigarette maker, Fiedler & Lundgren.

"We want to expand our business and it goes well along with the new smoking regulations," explained Hildingsson.

While snus has started to be gradually rolled out in the United States, South Africa and Canada, the ban remains in place across Europe.

In its role at the helm of the EU presidency, Sweden is in prime position to make its case and Stockholm has intensified talks with the European Commission and other member states on the subject.

"As the presidency, you're not supposed to put things on the agenda that can be seen as national priorities ... But on the other hand, we cannot rule out that this issue will come up in some form during other discussions," Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Bjoerling told AFP in a telephone interview.

Story continues below…

She argued that other forms of "oral" tobacco are allowed to be sold within the EU and points out that her country has one of the lowest rates of smoking.

But Sweden and the snus makers will have to battle Brussels to get their product to market as health experts warn consuming tobacco in this way is dangerous and highly addictive.

"There are strong suspicions that mouth and pancreatic cancers and also cardiovascular disease increase for people that use snus," said Anders Ahlbom, a professor at Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

"We've managed to save 400 million Europeans from snus. Why bring it in just because the tobacco industry wants to?" he asked.

Sweden's Institute for Public Health published a report in May arguing there was "strong scientific proof that (snus) has negative effects on health."

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Your comments about this article

15:21 September 15, 2009 by BravoTango
After having spent last winter in Stockholm, and seeing the number of people who are "hooked" on snus, I can say that this form of tobacco is no less of a problem than cigarette smoking. It is a nasty habit, with many snus users leaving their used products all over the ground, plugging urinals, etc., etc. Regardless of any effort to "save" the Swedish Match Company, the habit is addictive, dangerous to your health and should be banned outright. As more people move to "smokeless" tobacco, the result might be cleaner air for us non smokers to breathe, but the cancer wards in hospitals will continue to fill with patients who will lose their lives to this incidious substance. Wake up Sweden!!
17:03 September 15, 2009 by Leprehcaun
@ BravoTango

1. Snus isn't as bad as cigarrettes, it's sure as hell more nasty but from a health point of view it isn't worse.

2. There is no need to save Swedish Match, I know the.. I don't the English name for his position but it doesn't matter anyway, my point is, the company is doing well.

3. As i have already pointed out cigarettes are worse for your health and by your definition we shouldn't just outlaw snus, we should outlaw alcohol, cigarettes, cigars, sugar, fat and a very very very long list of unhealthy things but I do agree that we should make the first three things I said + snus illegal.

4. Snus doesn't give cancer, you''re lying.

Wake up BravoTango!!
01:24 September 16, 2009 by Captcha
Why do so many bossy butts feel the need to control what others do?
08:33 September 16, 2009 by rybo1
The EU truly sucks. Let them regulate something of importance, not snus. what's next, the banning of snus in restaurants because of second hand snus breath?
14:08 September 16, 2009 by Leprehcaun
@ Captcha

? Oh you're serious.. Well it's supposed to be obvious but well.. let me help you.

Because what they are doing affects other people. I'm not sure I have enough space or time to explain and I don't really want to either..

Yeah I'm gonna stay there; because it affects other people, directly or indirectly or very indirectly. It can be something like that people have nasty habits because they copied the role models they had when growing up, that's another reason why. Now I'll stop.
17:08 September 16, 2009 by RoyceD
I'd say banning snus is a move in direct violation of competitive market laws. You can't just ban something because it is encroaching on the profits of the tobacco companies.....

... oh yea, that's right. Like that has never happened before.
19:11 September 16, 2009 by Captcha

Yes, I am serious. It should be obvious to anyone outside of the nanny state that feed and cared for you that freedom is something that is lost a step at a time.

Bye the bye, the way that you comb you hair effects others. We should outlaw hair. Thanks for your help anyway.
22:39 September 16, 2009 by kenny8076
why dont the eu and sweden worry about there immigration problems, lack of housing for residents,instead of people shoving tea bags in there mouths!!!!!
23:49 September 16, 2009 by futureishere

I am with you. If snus ban is valid, then so is the ban on alcohol and cigarettes. I couldn't care less!
00:33 September 17, 2009 by Gwrhyr
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned how incredibly hypocritical this is of Sweden. Sweden proposes to have a goal of a drug-free society. So why on Earth would they want to promote the freedom of all Europeans to snus when they're hell-bent against any relaxation of alcohol laws, not to mention any relaxation of the strict laws here against soft-drugs (whoops, according to the Swedish government there is no such thing as soft drugs... yeah right). If Sweden really wants to take the lead in creating a drug-free society, they shouldn't demand exemptions from EU-wide bans on certain drug preparations. They certainly shouldn't push for their drug preparation of choice to be legalized Europe-wide while at the same time portraying Dutch coffeeshops as intolerable violations of European and international law.

Personally, I don't think marijuana, alcohol, coffee, or snus should have anything other than age restrictions. I'm tired of all the double standards and hypocrisy in this realm of public policy, though,all over the world. Next time the Dutch helm the EU without the Christian Democrats and ChristenUnie in power, they ought to strongly push for cannabis tolerance in Sweden, and watch as Sweden reacts the same way the EU officials are now reacting to Sweden.

16:12 September 17, 2009 by mastersamuel
I know it's illegal to sell snus in the EU outside of Sweden but is it illegal to send snus from Sweden to other countries?

Surely not?

I'm tryna get my friend to send me some since I became addicted and am no longer in Sweden...

But she won't because she is worried she'll get in trouble for it haha (ya know, Swedish psyche!)

So can someone confirm it is legal to send?

19:43 September 17, 2009 by beefrainbow
www.swedishsnus.com is the cheapest i've found, and you're also ordering direct from swedish match.

i live in the US and yes, its perfectly legal to send. they also have a store locator for the small amount of select tobacco shops in the US that sell it (i was buying it regularly in san francisco but since i've moved to washington the only place that sells it is six hours away, a bit of a stretch). stores in the US only sell the General brand, but you can pick from a ton of different ones in their webstore.

happy snusin'
15:24 September 18, 2009 by Beynch
May snus be banned! It's a disgusting and unsanitary practice.
14:44 September 19, 2009 by sparkriver
SNUS must be banned

In india lots of ppl used it ..it was very very popular a decade ago... and that increase the no of mouth cancer that Indian Govt forced to ban it . and aware ppl through various media .

So lifting the ban is a sad move
15:22 September 20, 2009 by 4xxxx
In the past few years I have known 2 people die from cancer of the Oesophagus directly linked to snus. It is not funny to see. It starts with a sore throat witch gets worse. After tests and confirmation the victim is usually given 6 months to live. Both my friends died in great pain within 5 months. They were in their mid 20s. And now Sweden as a nanny state wants to inflict this on the rest of Europe!!!!!
05:37 September 22, 2009 by copp3rred
Snus is better than cigarettes for 2 simple reasons:

1) You're not forcing other people to be exposed to all those carcinogens and other poisons.

2) Your clothes won't smell if you use snus.

4xxxx: Their mid 20s? You surely have access to their autopsies, to prove this was in fact the case? Hundreds of thousands of Swedes and Finns use and have used snus and I dare you to prove to me that anyone has ever died in their 20s, unless they've been swallowing the stuff by the shovel full.
06:34 June 10, 2010 by lauracross
It's true that snus has a lot less bad sides than cigarettes but it's no better than them. Many of my friends used snus to quit smoking and now they seem to be snus addicts. I read that snus is quite poisonous and can cause some pretty good damage at quit snus.com
04:17 January 29, 2011 by bluesman
@ sparkriver in india they dont use snus they use Ghutka which is tobacco mixed with the betel nut it is high in TSNA's and causes oral cancer. Sadly many children in India use this kind of chew.

Nobody is denying Snus is not harmful if you dont already use tobacco but in terms of harm reduction it is 95% safer than smoking cigarettes. So in that respect Snus would save or extend the lives of many smokers who have tried to quit using other methods. Also if many people who would otherwise start smoking and have long term addiction started with Snus they would also have health benefits over and above what smoking would do.
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