Sweden abandons bid to lift EU snus export ban

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Sweden abandons bid to lift EU snus export ban

The Swedish government has given up its efforts to force the European Union to scrap its ban on the export of snus, choosing instead to focus on protecting the popular moist tobacco product's use in Sweden.


"When it comes to the issue of exports, there's no way we can reach a successful outcome," Maria Larsson, the Christian Democrat Minister for Children and the Elderly who is responsible for leading negotiations on the EU tobacco directive, told the TT news agency.

Next week, EU ministers involved in negotiations on the new directive are set to meet in Luxemburg to present their countries' respective positions.

Larsson added that Sweden's push to retain its right to have its own rules regarding flavours and ingredients remains uncertain.

On Thursday, Larsson is scheduled to hold snus talks in Brussels to meet Tonio Borg, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy in hopes of ensuring Sweden's ability to set its own rules regarding snus should the export ban remain in place.

According to Sweden's position, if the EU refuses to scrap the snus export ban, then the EU shouldn't get involved in rules regarding flavour additives and ingredients used in snus sold in Sweden.

"I don't want to comment on the likelihood of success," Larsson said on Wednesday ahead of the talks with Borg.

Admitting defeat marks a significant shift from in tone from threats by Trade Minister Ewa Björling in December of an "all-out war" if the EU directive didn't go Sweden's way.

"This has been a low intensity conflict for years," Björling told the TT news agency at the time.

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

Snus, is a tobacco product invented in Sweden in the early 1800s. While maintaining its popularity, it has been on the rise in Sweden after smoking was banned in restaurants in 2005.

Sweden famously got a "snus exception" when it joined the EU 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.

The Swedish government has for years been trying to sway the EU to allow snuff to be exported in Europe, referring to laws on free movement as well as public health.

In Sweden currently only 11 percent of the adult population are smokers compared to the EU average which is 28 percent.

TT/The Local/dl

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