Political support grows for lifting snus ban in Finland

The snus ban in Finland has led to a growing black market for snus, costing the state coffers important revenues without reducing demand for snus, warns the Swedish Peoples’ Party of Finland’s youth wing as it pushes to legalise snus sales. 

The organisation, Swedish Youth (Svensk Ungdom), also argued that the ban had increased the spread of infection during the coronavirus pandemic.  

“To really reduce the use of both snus and tobacco, which is the aim of the government’s programme, preventive measures are needed that control both imports and the snus market in Finland,” said Frida Sigfrids, the organisation’s president.  

The youth party estimates that the illegal snus trade in Finland is worth over €50 million, while the government only receives revenue when sellers are sentenced and ordered to pay retroactive tax after lawsuits.

Finnish demand for snus won’t go away

According to Sigfrids, demand for snus in Finland won’t disappear just because “the government wants it to”. 

“If snus were legal, you could tax sales and use the funds for health care, for example,” she said. 

The Swedish Young Social Democrats (FSUD), another youth party, also want to change the law, with a historic decision to back legalising snus among the changes in their political program voted through at their most recent spring meeting. 

“The ban on selling snus results in Finland losing millions in tax revenue annually. In order to safeguard tax revenues and responsible sales, [state liquor store monopoly] Alko should be given the right to sell snus in Finland,” states the party’s updated political program..

The snus ban and the pandemic

At the same time, Paavo Arhinmäki, an MP for the Left Alliance, advocates that the snus ban in Finland should be lifted due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to Arhinmäki, the increase in Covid-19 infections in northern Finland can be linked to Finns’ trips to Sweden to buy snus.

“In this coronavirus situation, should we apply for an EU permit for the retail sale of snus in Finland?”, he wrote on Twitter.

Arhinmäki proposed legalizing snus sales in Finland when he was Minister of Culture and Sports between 2011 and 2014.

“Finland loses tax revenue and it’s impossible to control the sale of snus when it takes place on the black market,” Arhinmäki explained to the newspaper Iltalehti.

There is already growing support among Finnish politicians to lift the country’s snus ban according to a previous survey. The survey shows, among other things, that there are representatives from virtually all Finnish parliamentary parties who want to allow snus sales in Finland.

Better regulation by allowing snus sales

At the same time, there is evidence that snus is replacing cigarettes in Finland as private imports of snus to Finland increased by 23 percent in 2018 compared with the previous year, while private imports of cigarettes fell by almost 30 percent.

Finland’s current tobacco policy, where harmful products are accepted while less harmful ones are banned, is difficult for Swedish Youth’s Frida Sigfrids to accept.

“Snus is not harmless and therefore Finland must be able to regulate use better than we do today. That will not happen by sweeping the problem under the rug,” she said.