Swedish MEP Johan Nissinen talks to Snusforumet about his commitment to fighting for Swedish snus in Brussels and Strasbourg and the need for the government to do more to promote Sweden as a public health role model for combatting smoking and cancer.
Interest in Swedish snus is increasing across EU, but politics is still standing in the way. That’s Sweden Democrat MEP Johan Nissinen’s assessment in any case. He took some time to speak with Snusforumet about his views on the debates in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe about Swedish snus and smokeless nicotine pouches.
How have you worked to put snus on the EU agenda?
I continuously raise the issue in my committees, and I have sent written questions to the Commission for clarity on when the next step will take place. In addition, I posed a spoken question to the Swedish Minister of Finance about the government’s view on the matter when she appeared recently in the European Parliament. I’m also active on social media to inform voters and participate in the ongoing debate about snus and nicotine pouches.
How are discussions regarding snus and nicotine portions going in Brussels these days?
When I talk to various members and staff in the parliament, I notice an increased interest and a greater understanding of snus. But politically, there is still strong opposition, unfortunately. There is also a lot of opposition to nicotine pouches – with strong voices in favour of an outright ban in Belgium, for example.
What kind of information is needed to paint a more accurate picture of snus in the EU?
Swedish snus and nicotine pouches are better options than cigarettes. We can get rid of cigarettes once and for all thanks to snus and nicotine pouches. We need to highlight countries such as Sweden, but also Great Britain, where both Public Health England and the NHS have encouraged citizens to use e-cigarettes instead of traditional combustible tobacco products to advance public health. It’s a further step in an already multi-year government health initiative aiming to make the UK completely smoke-free by 2030.
You recently asked Sweden’s finance minister about the threat of EU tax increases on snus. What is your analysis of her response?
As things stand, the proposed tobacco tax hike isn’t being discussed at all. The proposal is temporarily on hold. However, this shouldn’t be seen as a victory in the long term. Rather, the very best thing would be for the proposal to be scrapped entirely. But it seems the most likely scenario is that the proposals will come out sometime between July and September if there’s any hope of them being addressed before the European Parliamentary elections next year. Spain is taking over the EU Presidency from Sweden in July and they are known for having a much more skeptical view of all tobacco and nicotine products.
What can Sweden do to drive the work to make snus legal in the EU?
Sweden is proof of the public health advantages that come from embracing snus and nicotine pouches instead of cigarettes. We need to do more to highlight the public health benefits. Sweden should also push to ensure the internal market is open for legal, equivalent products. If beer can be sold within the EU, wine should be to. If the sale of Coca-Cola is permitted, so must Pepsi, and so on. The same principle should apply to snus. If deadly cigarettes are permitted throughout the internal market, then a lower-risk equivalent like snus should be as well.
What are your plans for snus moving forward?
I will take every opportunity I can to talk about snus. Both in parliament and on social media. Once the Commission comes out with its proposal, it will come up in the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON). There I will do everything I can to stop a possible tax increase and also try to include as many amendments as possible in support of snus and nicotine pouches.