Have a happy snus New Year!

It has been an intense year in the world of snus. 

As the Association of Swedish Snus Manufacturers has stepped up its efforts to give out information and influence politics, there has been a renewed interest in our unique form of smokeless tobacco.

It began as early as February, when Göran Lundahl, the head of the Swedish government’s inquiry into new tobacco regulation presented his recommendations. 

They included a proposal to ban the marketing of flavoured snus on the packaging, a move that could hardly be seen as an improvement for consumers and which also would contravene the requirement for clear labeling under the Food Act. 

Gabriel Wikström, Sweden’s health minister, refused to answer questions about what he thought of the proposal for the rest of the year. 

In December 2015, however, when the Council on Legislation specified how the EU Tobacco Products Directive should be introduced in Sweden, it was explicitly stated that the ban on labeling and flavours should not apply to snus.

That there are still people in power willing to refrain from actively pursuing policies with negative consequences, is perhaps something to celebrate. 

But even if snus has many friends, its opponents are more focused. Those who use snus often have many interests in life, while those who want to fight it do not seem to think that anything else is quite as important.

During the year, I have been able to visit factories that produce snus and it has been both educational and fascinating. With any type of industrial production, you only really appreciate its power when you see it in action, and in a snus factory where several different types of snus are being manufactured, there is a special feeling and a noticeable smell of snus, which is still a bit diffuse because it comes from several different types of products. 

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to these factory visits being so successful!

This summer, the Swedish Food Workers’ Union, together with the Swedish Food Federation, organized a seminar on snus during the Swedish political festival Almedalen on the island of Gotland. The panel was in total agreement about the importance of preserving Swedish snus as we know it. 

But at the same time, it is obvious that anyone who knows the slightest thing about the connection between tobacco, snus, smoking, and nicotine, cannot oppose snus as a product. 

After the seminar itself, the audience was given a brilliant historical exposition of Swedish snus by the inimitable Edward Blom. 

The whole exercise ended with a voluntary snus tasting where different varieties produced by members of the Association of Snus Manufacturers were available.  The products, from Gotlandssnus, Swedish Match, and Skruf Snus, generated curiosity and lots of discussion.

Many were surprised to find out that, despite one million Swedes using snus, Swedish men have the lowest mortality from tobacco-related diseases in the EU. 

Fortunately, there was a strong popular reaction when the County Council in Uppsala County pushed the proposal to ban the odour of snus. That time, ridiculousness had passed all limits.

The task of spreading information about snus means keeping in contact with members of parliament, government officials, and other leaders, and it is also important to continue to give a truthful and clear picture in articles and features published in the media. 

During the autumn, I also participated in a parliamentary seminar and met with members of parliament for an internship in a snus shop. I’ve also had to write a number of articles highlighting political inconsistencies such as the need for a reduced tax on snus, the differences between smoking and snus, and the need for continued clear regulation that promotes quality.

We have also been informed by the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare and Swedish Public Health Agency that there are no statistics on the possible costs of snus for society. 

Instead, snus is a major source of revenue for the government through excise duty and VAT. 

So there is no economic justification at all for making the sale of snus more difficult, the opposition is based solely on a sort of moralism.

Thanks to the good cooperation between all the members of the Association of Swedish Snus Manufacturers, many more people have had the pleasure of trying new high-quality snus products. Even though snus is not a health product, there is clearly an increased interest in a stimulant that does not affect anyone other than the user.

My hope is that more people will be able to understand this insight in 2016. 

A Swedish tradition that has existed for several hundred years cannot be dismissed so lightly.

So a Happy Snus New Year for everyone in 2016, and especially to the venerable snus brand General, which will be 150 years old!

Patrik Strömer, Secretary General of the Association of Swedish Snus Manufacturers.