The unsustainable EU snus ban

Patrik Strömer, Secretary General of the Association of Swedish Snus Manufacturers, reflects on the unsustainable EU snus ban following a recent announcement by the European Court of Justice.

Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe, Advocate General at the European Court of Justice, announced in a preliminary statement on 12 April 2018  that the snus ban is valid

This is a remarkable conclusion that does not take the issue of free movement of goods within the EU into account. The question of discrimination and, moreover, whether proportionality is reasonable is not even addressed.

There are no justification for the Advocate General’s position, either in law or on public health grounds.

ECJ Advocate General ‘plain wrong’

In his statement,  Øe claims that the introduction of snus might entail an increased risk to public health, which purely hypothetically might be true, but has absolutely no evidence to behind it. What empirical evidence does exists, such as that from Sweden and Norway when population statistics have been compared over time, shows that snus use reduces the number of smokers.

Since there is a consensus that snus is significantly less harmful than cigarettes, the only possible conclusion is that the Advocate General’s speculation is wrong.

On the other hand, he claims in his statement that the connection between snus and reduced smoking is ‘’not fully established’,  suddenly bringing in strict demands for evidence. 

A person with a highly developed imagination could of course consider all of those who have both stopped smoking and also started using snus and conclude that there was no connection whatsoever between these two things, and that instead that it is pure coincidence that there are 300,000 cases where this has happened.  

But that is about as likely as flipping a coin 300,000 times and getting heads every time. In theory, it is possible, but if we instead consider what is reasonable, the Advocate General’s reasoning is just not valid. 

Swedish government failed to report the facts

How did we end up here? 

The Advocate General believes that it is the responsibility of politicians to evaluate and assess risks. This was done in an EU context, but the Swedish government actively refrained from submitting any facts or statements to the court hearing held on 25 January.

In the spring of 2017, the Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, was asked why snus is banned in the EU and answered honestly: “I do not know”. So how can people who do not have facts be able to decide?

The Swedish government failed to submit any information to the European Court of Justice. 

Unfortunately, the Advocate General’s statement was to be expected. He has chosen keeping the status quo over changing the status of snus..

This is not the final decision on the matter, but it would be unfortunate if cigarettes continued to be allowed, while consumers across the EU were denied snus as an option.

According to the Snus Commission, 355,000 lives are at stake every year.

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

PS: There is bizarrely enough some wording that can only be interpreted as a error: “in introducing young people to smoking and increasing the risk of later use of tobacco for smoking.” Yes, introducing people to smoking can probably increase the risk of them smoking, but it has nothing to do with snus. And even if it is snus that is being referred to, it is not true.