“The Swedish government has resisted special interest groups’ negative influence on harm reduction in a bold and positive move in the global effort to eliminate tobacco related disease. The government has chosen to not provide written observations to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in relation to a case being brought to overturn the EU ban on the sale of ‘snus’.” wrote the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) Sweden in a press release earlier this week.
Case C-151/17, against the EU snus ban, was initiated by the Swedish Match. Last January The New Nicotine Alliance UK appeared in front of the High Court in London asking for permission to join the Swedish Match in their quest to challenge the ban. Their request was accepted and subsequently they submitted a request to the ECJ to lift the ban.
Sweden urged to recognise role of snus in harm reduction
Following these events, the ECJ asked all European Union (EU) member states to submit their opinions pertaining to the matter by the 7th of July. By June The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) was informed that the Swedish Government had planned to submit an opinion to the ECJ similar to the ones it had sent in the past, pointing out health risks associated with snus. An opinion which in the past is believed to have greatly influenced the ECJ’s decision in implementing the ban.
The INNCO and NNA Sweden intervened. They addressed the Swedish government and pointed out why such information about snus was incorrect and based on outdated references. “Seventeen INNCO international member organisations wrote individual letters to the Swedish government, outlining their objections and concern were Sweden to choose, yet again, to submit an incomplete and misleading opinion on Snus to the ECJ. ‘Snus’ has a 200-year history of use in Sweden without any verifiable evidence of serious adverse health effects. It also remains the most widely used and successful method in assisting smoking cessation. Sweden now boasts the lowest smoking rate in Europe.”
Sweden boasts lowest smoking rates in Europe
Bates was amongst those who wrote to the Swedish government. “One of the more puzzling things about snus is the reluctance of Sweden’s government to claim credit for what is by any standards an extraordinary public health achievement. So here I write to the relevant ministers requesting that they acknowledge Sweden’s success, show some leadership and promote the concept of tobacco harm reduction,” he said last June.
A positive step towards harm reduction
“Sweden is the only EU country in which citizens have legal access to Snus (having gained an exemption as part of their entry to the EU in 1995). Consequently, it is the only country in the world with access to reliable historical data and observations on long term Snus use. Sweden’s evidence is therefore invaluable to the ECJ and public health regulators currently deprived of qualitative Snus data, in the forthcoming re-examination of the current EU Snus ban. We believe that INNCO’s global civil society initiative has been instrumental in influencing the Swedish government’s decision to offer no comment.” said the press release.