Snus in 2019: the year in review

Patrik Strömer,  Secretary General of the Association of Swedish Snus Manufacturers, reflects on this year’s biggest events surrounding snus in 2019, while also finding time to ponder what he wants from Father Christmas. 

When I get asked “How’s it going with the snus?”, the answer I usually give is that “snus is fine, it’s politics and regulation that isn’t going so well”. 

And this has been one of those years for snus in 2019. In the rest of the world, more and more people are discovering the benefits of snus. The reputable medical journal The Lancet published statistics in its 2017 Global Burden of Disease study which showed that snus does not constitute a public health problem, and is not linked to any deaths.

This is in stark contrast to both smoking and other smokeless tobacco used in other countries. Letting such facts sink in can be a slow process for a lot of people, but as this understanding spreads and reaches more and more people, it is becoming ever more obvious to people across the world what a fantastic product snus really is. 

It is partly just luck and partly the result of a concerted, high-quality effort that has led to Swedish snus being regulated as a foodstuff in 2019, and to it being a stimulant for adults that does not pose any health risks for those who are otherwise healthy and well.

Historic FDA decision on snus

After several years of careful scientific review, taking in over 100,000 pages of scientific literature, making study visits to Sweden and carrying out special hearings, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) came to the conclusion that “snus is less dangerous than cigarettes“.

This would have been known to anyone who had read the research, but since the FDA is an authority, they have to consider factors beyond the strictly medical ones. 

What is interesting is how two of the major markets differentiate between cigarettes and snus, but in different ways. In the USA, it has been established on a scientific basis that snus is better than cigarettes, while in the EU, on the other hand, snus is banned purely out of moralism and populism.

Snus can now be sold legally in Switzerland

There was also good news from Switzerland. There’s been an ongoing political process for several years in this neutral Alpine country pushing towards regulating snus and allowing sales, but when the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the previous ban had no legal basis, it was lifted somewhat earlier than expected.

That’s what happens in a state governed by the rule of law — laws also apply to politicians. And the more Swiss people use snus, the fewer people smoke, and the more public health improved, so there’s another victory there too!

Sweden’s new tobacco law: smoking ban, permit requirement

In December 2018 a new tobacco law was voted through in Sweden, and on July 1st, the ban on smoking in many public places, including outdoor cafes, came into force. 

Snus shouldn’t be too affected by the new law (except for the fact that the government has decided that there must be 20 portions in a box of snus. Never let it be said that Swedish politicians don’t care about important issues!!).

It wasn’t until November that another part of the legislation came into force mandating retailers obtain a permit to sell tobacco

What should have been quick and easy municipal procedure has unfortunately turned out to be a bureaucratic and legally tricky little monster. 

It is impossible to know why this process has been so slow. It may be that the municipalities actively want to reduce the number of points of sale, need money from the companies, or are inefficient in their routines. 

Permits have become expensive, with the fee for applying ranging from SEK 2,050 to SEK 12,000 depending on the municipality. No one who thinks that citizens in Sweden should be treated equally before the law can possible think that this is a good outcome. 

What’s worse is that it now seems actually more expensive to obey the law than it is to simply ignore it and pay a fine

Snus 2020: ANDT, public health, and sensible policy

What I really want Santa to bring me for Christmas is a new ANDT (Alcohol, Narcotics, Doping and Tobacco) strategy that will differentiate between cigarettes and snus, and also that people finally learn the difference between correlation and causality.

My New Year’s resolution is the same as in previous years: With a box of snus in hand, I pledge to fight for truth, public health, scientific rigor, accurate information, sensible policies, and well-deserved enjoyment for adults.

So long as there is a single country where snus remains banned, the fight against prohibition continues!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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