Patrik Strömer Discusses COP10 and Global Tobacco Policy

Global Tobacco Policy takes center stage this November at COP10 in Panama, where 180 countries will meet behind closed doors. Patrik Strömer, leader of the Swedish Snus Manufacturers’ Association, asks: is the secrecy of these talks slowing down progress?

COP10, the tenth tobacco conference organized by WHO, will run from November 20th to 25th in Panama. The central focus for participating nations is tobacco regulations, which will lay the groundwork for global tobacco policies. What sets this conference apart is the practice of conducting all discussions behind closed doors, inaccessible even to the media.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Patrik Strömer, Secretary-General of the Swedish Snus Manufacturers’ Association. He shares insights into how COP10 may impact Sweden’s snus policy, discusses the EU’s stance on nicotine pouches, and explores whether ‘The Swedish Experience’ could offer a transformative perspective on global tobacco policy.

How does Sweden’s government view COP10?

Sweden prides itself on transparency principles, yet concerns have arisen due to the confidentiality of Sweden’s contributions to the EU regarding COP10. This lack of transparency hinders scrutiny of Sweden’s position during EU discussions on COP10 mandates.

Do we know who will represent Sweden at the conference?

Previous COP conferences have seen participation from Sweden’s Ministry of Social Affairs and the Public Health Agency of Sweden. However, specific details about attendees remain scant. Notably, some organizations, such as A Non Smoking Generation, have been denied participation. COP10 is a closed event with limited transparency, despite its substantial impact on the future of snus and nicotine pouches.

Do participants at COP10 understand the varying health risks of tobacco and nicotine products?

While some participants may be knowledgeable about these differences, a prevailing ideological stance considers all forms of nicotine as equally addictive. This perspective disregards distinctions in health risks, such as the significantly reduced harm associated with snus and nicotine pouches compared to smoking.

Is there information available on COP10’s agenda for global tobacco policy?

Among the proposals to be discussed is one suggesting the regulation of nicotine pouches similarly to tobacco products used in a similar manner. If adopted, this could lead to a nicotine pouch ban in the EU, despite the fact that snus is already prohibited. Such a move would be detrimental for Swedish users of nicotine pouches, potentially driving them toward riskier nicotine consumption methods, including smoking. Additionally, it’s crucial to recognize that Sweden is a major producer of nicotine pouches. From a public health perspective, a ban offers no advantages and risks impacting Swedish jobs and exports.

How does “The Swedish Experience” relate to the global conversation on tobacco harm reduction and policy?

“The Swedish Experience” showcases Sweden’s remarkable success in reducing smoking rates through alternatives like snus and nicotine pouches. This approach has garnered international attention and offers valuable insights for other nations grappling with high smoking prevalence rates.

What are your expectations for Sweden’s role at COP10 in shaping the global tobacco policy?

I anticipate Sweden will leverage its unique successes in tobacco harm reduction. At the very least, I hope to see Sweden defend its existing legislation and advocate for similar regulations on a global scale. Ideally, Sweden should present data comparing its outcomes with the rest of Europe, making it challenging to ignore the reality of its achievements. While some argue that Sweden’s success is attributed to high taxes and longstanding tobacco prevention efforts, this explanation doesn’t fully account for the substantial reduction in health risks among Swedish men. To my knowledge, there are no comparable examples worldwide where women, as a group, choose riskier behaviors than men, making Swedish men who use snus truly unique.

What are your hopes for Sweden’s role in COP10 and its impact on international tobacco regulation?

I hope that Sweden will champion its successful approach to tobacco harm reduction at COP10. With results demonstrating the effectiveness of alternative products, I anticipate Sweden advocating for similar measures worldwide.

Do you believe your expectations will be met?

I remain optimistic, but my concern lies with the lack of transparency surrounding COP10. Transparency is essential for accountability and effective oversight, and its absence is disconcerting.