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.

Sweden abandons bid to lift EU snus export ban

“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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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
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.”