NNA is seeking to overturn the UK and EU ban on snus. We have joined a legal action against the ban, which will be heard in the European Court of Justice. We argue that the ban on snus is disproportionate, and that it is contrary to the right to health.
Snus is a popular and effective harm reduction product which has helped thousands in Sweden and Norway to avoid the risks of smoking. As a result Sweden and Norway have the lowest rates of lung cancer in Europe. But the sale of snus is banned in the EU, except in Sweden. Our legal argument that the ban is harmful to health and that UK and EU smokers deserve a better deal – the snus ban kills.
Everyone was taken by surprise by the way millions of smokers flocked to e-cigarettes to help them cut down or stop smoking. But e-cigarettes do not suit all smokers. Millions of people in the UK continue to smoke and proven alternatives like snus should be available to help those who want to switch away from cigarettes. We want to see wide availability of all safer nicotine products as alternatives to smoking. When smokers have the widest possible choice of reduced risk products it increases the likelihood of their finding an option that works for them.
Snus is a popular and effective harm reduction product, but the sale of snus is banned in the EU, except in Sweden. It is banned under the EU Tobacco Products Directive: the TPD was bad for e-cigarettes, but worse for snus. The EU continued with the ban despite huge evidence for the safety and impact of snus, and despite the overwhelming view of consumers who told the EC that the snus ban should be lifted. According to evidence from the European Commission itself some 83% of the 70,925 who responded to the consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive wanted the ban removed.
Snus is much safer than smoking tobacco. Some 46% of deaths due to smoking result from are respiratory diseases, predominantly lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia. Without the inhalation of smoke then for these diseases alone half of premature deaths can be avoided.
Sweden now has the lowest lung cancer and tobacco-related mortality in Europe. There is scant evidence for any major adverse health effects of snus: snus is not associated with cancers of the oropharynx, oesophagus, pancreas, or heart disease or strokes. Switching to snus appears to have much the same reduced health risk as stopping smoking. Snus is not completely free from adverse health effects but these are miniscule compared with the risks of smoking. Snus poses no risk to others as there is no ‘second hand' smoke.
Snus protects against smoking by reducing the uptake of smoking, helping people reduce smoking, and helping people to stop. In Sweden and Norway the increase in the use of snus has been accompanied by a major decrease in smoking. As a consequence the prevalence of male adult smoking in Sweden and Norway is now the lowest in Europe.
NNA contends that snus fulfils the criteria for a tobacco harm reduction product and that it should be available in the UK. The ban on the sale of snus is incompatible with evidence for its safety in comparison with smoked tobacco cigarettes and is against the interests of individual and public health.
We will tell the ECJ that the ban is harmful to health rather than protective of health; that it discriminates against products and consumers, and works against the achievement of a high level of health protection. EU smokers deserve a better deal – the snus ban kills.
Key points of the case:
- The ECJ ruling will apply across the EU, not just the UK
- Referrals to the ECJ are uncommon – to get this far is a significant achievement for an NGO
- It’s the first time a ‘right to health argument’ has been lodged as a challenge to tobacco control legislation