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EU COMMISSION

EU to uphold export ban on Swedish snus

The European Commission plans to ban the flavoured snus that has becoming increasingly popular in Sweden in recent years, according to the final version of its proposed tobacco directive presented on Wednesday, which also calls for the current ban on snus exports to remain in place.

EU to uphold export ban on Swedish snus

“We are not banning smoking, we are making it less attractive,” EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said at a press conference in Brussels.

“Tobacco should look like tobacco and it should taste like tobacco,” he added.

He gave, as an example, cigarettes with added aromas such as orange and vanilla.

“This proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavourings are not used as a marketing strategy,” Borg told assembled reporters.

Many Swedish snus manufacturers have added aromas in recent years. General brand snus has bergamot orange flavouring while Göteborgs Rapé has a taste of juniper berries.

Other new types of snus have been introduced recently which feature different types of mint, liquorice and eucalyptus flavours.

Borg also explained that there will be no easing of the export ban that Swedish snus producers have faced in the entire union since Sweden joined in the early 1990s.

For Swedish snus manufactuers, the Commission’s decision, while expected, nevertheless came as a disappointment.

“We regret that the current ban on snus exports is going to remain in place,” Patrik Hildingsson, spokesman with Swedish Match, told The Local.

Hildingsson said that it was “sad” that the Commission could so easily skirt core principles of the EU meant to ensure non-discrimination of products made and sold in members states.

“The Commission is picking winners and losers in the market,” he said, calling the extension of the snus export ban a “one-sided trade ban”.

“Other snus manufacturers in Europe are able to export to Sweden, but we can’t export to the rest of Europe,” said Hildingsson.

Snus is no laughing matter for Swedes, and as late as last week Trade Minister Ewa Björling threatened Brussels with “all out war” if they tried to ban it from Sweden.

She said the Commission must take medical research into consideration.

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.

Borg, however, seemed to disagree.

“It is well known that snus has a negative impact on health. And the risk that snus is only the first step of tobacco consumption is significant,” he said at Wednesday’s press conference.

The new rules are meant to replace the Commission’s last tobacco directive from 2001. Directives entail that members states have to make sure that national law mirrors the guidelines set out in them.

It will have to be voted through by the European Parliament.

TT/David Landes

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SNUS

Illegal snus operations a growing problem in Sweden

Sweden’s status as the only country in the EU where snus is legal has created a growing underground manufacturing operation, broadcaster SVT reported on Saturday.

Illegal snus operations a growing problem in Sweden
File photo: ANDERS WIKLUND / TT
More popular than cigarettes in Sweden, snus is a moist tobacco product either bought loose or in small parcels and placed under the lip. Its export to and sale within other EU countries is banned, and the EU has consistently opted to maintain that restriction, with Sweden granted an exception and allowed to sell the product within its borders.
 
But demand for snus beyond Sweden’s borders is growing. So too is the number of Swedish operations apparently willing to break the law to meet the demand by producing and selling snus in secret. According to SVT, some snus manufacturers skirt the export ban by running illegal snus sales alongside their legal activities. But the broadcaster said there is also a flourishing black market in which snus is sold under fake labels. 
 
“The knowledge is here since we have a long history of production. That makes Sweden a good starting point for the production of illegal snus,” Magnus Råsten of the Swedish Economic Crime Authority (Ekobrottsmyndigheten – EBM) told SVT. 
 
EBM has reported an uptick in illegal snus production in recent years, particularly in Gothenburg. But the agency does not have an overview of how much of the tobacco product is being manufactured and sold illegally. 
 
“Illegal manufacturing can in some cases be part of serious criminality but there are also manufacturers who are primarily engaged in legal activities,” Råsten said. “In contrast to drugs or weapons, it’s not as risky to get into the snus business because it is not illegal in Sweden. That also makes it harder for us to assess whether the activity is legal.” 
 
According to Råsten, much of the foreign demand for snus comes from Norway, Finland and Russia.
 
“There is a market that people want to reach,” he said. “When there is money to be made, criminality often follows.”