NNA contends that snus fulfils the criteria for a tobacco harm reduction product and hence should be available in the UK. The legal ban on snus denies smokers of the choice of a much safer nicotine product than cigarettes.
The introduction of snus into the United Kingdom would form part of a coherent strategy of tobacco harm reduction that help people avoid smoking. The current scientific evidence, and the fact that Sweden, where snus is used, now has the lowest lung cancer and tobacco-related mortality in Europe, indicates that snus is a suitable and appropriate product for individuals who are seeking to avoid smoking and other combustible tobacco products.
The rapid rise in the popularity of electronic cigarettes, a grass roots consumer driven phenomenon, shows that many smokers want to avoid smoking-related harms. There is the potential to reduce smoking when acceptable products are available to consumers; such uptake being at no cost to public funds.
The NNA submits that the ban on snus is disproportionate given the low risk of snus compared with other nicotine products. It is an unsuitable means by which to achieve the aim of public health protection because it removes from consumers the option to use a safer nicotine product.
NNA also contends that the ban on snus infringes the human right to health. The availability of snus is an aspect of personal health and personal autonomy by which consumers can avoid the health hazards of smoking. The ban on tobacco for oral use limits smokers’ choice of safer alternatives, by excluding a product that is significantly less harmful to health than cigarettes. The NNA therefore submits that the ban on snus engages issues under European law, in particular those articles in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR) that protect autonomy and choice - Articles 1 (human dignity), Article 7 (respect for private and family life) and Article 35 (health care).
Article 1 of the CFR is an overall obligation to respect human rights, and protects ‘human dignity’. The issue of dignity is linked to personal autonomy: a principle by which individuals make choices on the conduct of their life, which presupposes a range of choices.
Respect for private and family life
Article 7 on ‘respect for private and family life’ is a broad-ranging right that is often closely connected with other rights including autonomy such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to respect for property. Article 7 has been held to apply to issues of quality of life, self- determination, a right to establish relationships, self-identity, choices in relation to medical treatments to prolong life, and decisions on parenthood by insemination techniques.
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights stipulates in Article 35 that a high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all the Union's policies and activities. NNA argues that the EU legislators based the law on a limited understanding of ‘health protection’ in violation of Article 35. By banning tobacco for oral use, the EU prevents access to a product that significantly reduces harm to consumers as compared to cigarettes. The EU legislators, we believe, took a narrow definition of ‘health protection’ to mean protection from products, whereas it should have taken a broader public health definition to include making it possible for people to take action to avoid ill-health through the choices they make.
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