Harm Reduction Heroes: Snusforum caught up with Bengt Wiberg, a leading voice in the harm reduction debate. Through his ‘EU for snus’ initiative, he is challenging the EU’s ‘unscientific’ snus policy and wants to show world leaders that snus saves lives.
“If more people used nicotine the way we do in Sweden, we could save many lives from premature death each year,” he says.
In the harm reduction debate, Bengt Wiberg highlights that nicotine itself is not the culprit.
“Nicotine itself does not cause cancer. It’s the smoke and tar in cigarettes that are harmful,” says Bengt Wiberg, a 66-year-old economist from the Stockholm suburb Lidingö who has become a central and passionate advocate for snus.
In 2018, Wiberg’s commitment intensified when he recognized the political rather than scientific roots of the EU’s snus policy.
EU snus policy: politics over science
“The EU’s stance is rooted in politics, not science,” he says.
Most informed researchers now liken nicotine to caffeine – addictive but not very harmful, says Bengt.
“If you can’t quit nicotine altogether, at least switch to less harmful alternatives than smoking,” he says.
But EU politicians refuse to acknowledge this. Frustrated by the EU’s scientific neglect, he founded the “EU for snus” network. With the initiative, he is working to counter the political resistance towards snus.
Bengt argues the resistance to lifting the snus ban in the EU is about prestige. Revoking the ban would force decision-makers to acknowledge their error.
Bengt Wiberg’s ‘EU for snus’ initiative
The initiative persists, with WHO’s tobacco control meeting COP10 now rescheduled for February 2024. The meeting will address the strict regulations on nicotine products, which could have a significant impact on snus, nicotine pouches and other less harmful alternatives to smoking.
EU snus regulations’ impact on Public Health
With his initiative, Bengt is hoping to influence EU decision-makers. Swedish EU parliamentarians have already approached the EU Commission’s President for Health Issues.
“Sweden stands out because we have the lowest rate of all tobacco-related cancer forms and the lowest mortality from tobacco-related diseases in the world,” he points out.
Snus without the sting
Bengt has observed that many smokers hesitate to switch to snus or nicotine pouches due to discomfort from the burning sensation on the gums. This is why he invented the “sting-free” technology, which has been patented in Europe and the USA.
The goal is to enlighten people about safer ways to consume nicotine. The technology has been awarded “The Golden Leaf Award” for the industry’s most innovative product – the most significant innovation since portioned snus was invented 50 years ago.
“I am very proud of this,” he says.