NNA media release, sent out on Friday 26 January 2018
- European Court of Justice holds hearing on ban on snus
- EU institutions argued collapse in smoking in Sweden due to “healthy living” not snus
- UK government said ban was “protecting public health”
- Scientists say “absolutely no doubt” that snus is a key factor in fall in smoking
- The EU institutions have urged the European Court of Justice to uphold the ban on the smoking substitute snus which was imposed in 1992. They were opposing an action brought by the manufacturer Swedish Match at a hearing on 25 January 2018.
The oral tobacco product is used daily by 20% of people in Sweden which was exempted from the ban when it joined the EU in 1995. Smoking in Sweden has fallen from being more than 50% in the 1960s to just 5%. This is by far the lowest level in the EU where the average for daily smoking is 24%.
Outside the EU snus is also popular in Norway which announced this month that smoking has halved in the last ten years to 11%. It has been overtaken by snus use which is now at 12%.
Counsel for the European Parliament told the court that these dramatic falls had nothing to do with snus. It was instead the result of “healthy living.” Meanwhile the European Council argued that “high levels of parental leave for men” in Sweden were reducing smoking as it meant men could not smoke as they were with their children.
The UK and Norwegian governments argued that the ban should continue with counsel for the UK saying it was “protecting public health.”
The legal action is supported by the consumer charity the New Nicotine Alliance. Speaking after the hearing its chairman Professor Gerry Stimson said: “snus has been the gateway out of smoking for both Sweden and Norway which has led to vastly better health outcomes. It is disappointing that while the UK government has shifted from opposing e-cigarettes to being an enthusiastic supporter, it has still not changed its mind on the EU snus ban which it was pivotal in instigating.”
His comments were echoed by the smoking substitutes expert Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos: "There is absolutely no doubt that access to snus in Sweden and Norway has played a crucial role in the rapid reduction of their smoking rates.”
An academic study in 2017 showed that up to 355,000 deaths could have been avoided in just one year if Sweden’s rates of smoking and snus use had been replicated in the rest of Europe.
Professor Gerry Stimson, New Nicotine Alliance +44 300 302 0029
1. 20% of people in Sweden are daily users of oral/chewed/nasal tobacco. See footnote on page 73 of EU Eurobarometer 2017
2. Daily smoking fell in Sweden from 8% to 5% over the last three years. The EU average is 24%. See page 27 of EU Eurobarometer 2017
3. Norway’s smoking rate falls from 22% to 11%. See Reuters 18 January 2018
4. World Health Organisation: snus is “considerably less hazardous” than smoking. EU Commission: the health advantages over smoking are “undeniable". US Food and Drug Administration: authorised snus after exhaustive testing
5. Two academic studies have shown that if snus were available in the rest of Europe it could save between 200,000 and 355,000 lives - every year. (Brad Rodu, 2004, Snus Commission Report, 2017) - see table on page 19 of the Snus Commission Report for annual mortality gap in your country.
6. The ECJ proceedings are case number C-151/17