Clive Bates,  Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and Professor Riccardo Polosa, were amongst the eighteen public health experts hailing from all corners of the world, that wrote a letter to Mr Frans Timmerman, the EU’s Commissioner for Better Regulation, drawing his attention to the detrimental ban on snus.

The popularity of snus in Norway and Sweden has led to these two countries reporting the lowest rates of lung cancer in Europe.
Snus is a moist powder tobacco product that is placed under the upper lip for extended periods. It is considered as an effective harm reduction product which has helped thousands quit smoking and is extremely popular in Norway and Sweden, in fact the popularity of snus has led to these two countries reporting the lowest rates of lung cancer in Europe.


The NNA (New Nicotine Alliance), has also been actively involved in challenging the snus ban since last January, with Chair for the NNA, Professor Gerry Stimson saying, “E-cigarettes are having a major impact, but they don’t work for everyone in all circumstances. We want to see wide availability of all safer nicotine products as alternatives to smoking.”

The letter titled Lifting the unjustified European Union ban on oral tobacco or “snus” in the light of ongoing legal action, was sent earlier this month and the main arguments are highlighted below:

Letter regarding the EU prohibition of oral tobacco (“snus”) and related legal challenge

To: Mr Frans Timmermans, Commissioner for Better Regulation, Interinstitutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights


Mr Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Ms Therese Comodini Cachia MEP (Rapporteur, JURI committee, European Parliament)

1 June 2017

Dear Mr Timmermans

Please find attached a letter for your consideration.

We write as experts in the field of nicotine and tobacco policy and science. We write to you primarily in your capacity as Commissioner for Better Regulation to draw your attention to one of the worst cases of poor EU regulation. This is the EU ban on oral tobacco or “snus”, which is now the subject of legal action in the Court of Justice.

Snus use carries a small fraction of the risk of smoking and is responsible for significantly lower levels of smoking, disease and premature death where it is in use within the EU, only in Sweden. It is banned outright in the other 27 member states. There was no justification for renewing the prohibition in 2014, when it was once again extended in the Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU Article 17. There is no justification for defending it in court now.

Our detailed letter, attached, sets out why this prohibition violates the main principles of better regulation and of policymaking under the EU treaties. In brief:

  • It does not meet the essential requirement to base EU action on evidence and understanding of the impacts.
  • It is disproportionate and discriminatory. There is no possible justification for allowing cigarettes and other smokeless tobacco products but prohibiting snus.
  • It does not promote the internal market with a high level of health protection. In reality, it is anti-competitive and likely to be causing material harm to health.
  • It was not based on open and transparent decision-making. The justification for the prohibition is inadequate and there has been no response to substantive criticisms of the case made by the Commission in 2012.
  • It ignored the views of citizens and stakeholders. The 2011 consultation findings on this measure showed significant support for lifting the prohibition.
  • It violates the Charter of Fundamental Rights by denying people an option to reduce life-threatening smoking-related risks and to take personal responsibility for their health.

We hope the Commission will use the opportunity of the legal challenge to correct this case of poorly conceived and harmful regulation. It could do so by bringing forward a proposal to amend the Directive to treat snus no differently from other smokeless tobacco products. A further possibility would be to amend the directive to provide a coherent regulatory framework for all low risk tobacco and nicotine products, including smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes and other vapour products, heated tobacco products and novel nicotine products.

We affirm that we do not have conflicts of interest or any affiliations that fall under Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

We would welcome a reply. Please channel any communication through Clive Bates (email / phone)

Professor Tony Axéll
Emeritus Professor Geriatric Dentistry
Consultant in Oral Medicine

Clive D Bates
Director Counterfactual
Former Director, Action on Smoking & Health (UK) 1997-2003
United Kingdom

Professor Frank Baeyens
Professor of Psychology
University of Leuven

Professor Ron Borland
Nigel Gray Distinguished Fellow in Cancer Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria
Professorial Fellow School of Population Health and Department of Information Systems
University of Melbourne,

Professor John Britton
Chair, Tobacco Advisory Group, Royal College of Physicians
Professor of Epidemiology;
UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies,
Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences
University of Nottingham
United Kingdom

Professor Jean François Etter
Associate Professor
Institute of Global Health
Faculty of Medicine
University of Geneva

Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, M.D.
Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, Athens Greece
University of Patras,
Associate Professor Coral Gartner*
The University of Queensland
School of Public Health

Dr. Ernest Groman
Director, Nicotine Institute
Medical University of Vienna

Professor Peter Hajek
Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine
Queen Mary University of London
United Kingdom

Professor Lynn T. Kozlowski
Professor of Community Health and Health Behavior
School of Public Health & Health Professions
University at Buffalo, SUNY
United States of America

Professor Dr Michael Kunze
Head of the Institute for Social Medicine
Medical University of Vienna

Dr Jacques Le Houezec
Consultant in Public Health,
Président SOVAPE,

Dr Karl Erik Lund
Research Director, Tobacco
Department of Substance Use
Norwegien Institute of Public Health

Professor Bernd Mayer
Chair Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
University of Graz

Professor Riccardo Polosa, MD,
Professor of Internal Medicine
Università degli Studi di Catania,

Dr Lars Ramström
Director, Institute for Tobacco Studies

David Sweanor JD
Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law,
University of Ottawa,

* updated affiliation

Increasing the number of harm reduction tools equates to greater chances of success

The removal of the snus ban and implementation of more reasonable regulations would have an immeasurably positive effect on public health. By giving smokers another harm reduction alternative to choose from, hence increasing their cessation aid options, authorities would be increasing their chances of finding the product that best works for them.

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