Swedes ponder EU exit as snus ban plan continues

The EU's impending ban on snus may lead to a popular movement in Sweden demanding that the country leaves the European Union

by The Commentator on 26 March 2013 14:37


One in seven Swedes are against a ban on flavored snus, a variant of a tobacco product which around 12 percent of Swedes use per year.

Snus, a variant of snuff, is a powder containing tobacco that is placed under the top lip. It has its roots in, and retains its manufacturing base in Sweden.

Worringly for the European Union, almost three in ten Swedes think that their country should consider leaving the EU if the ban goes ahead. 

According to a new survey by Novus, the opposition to a total ban of flavoured snus in the EU is firmly established among Swedes. The study included 1023 Swedes.

"Snuff is very personal, so people react - so this is not surprising", says Henrik Jakobsson, CEO of Gotlandssnus, a snus manufacturer.

The European Union banned the sale of snus in 1992 after a World Heath Organisation (WHO) study concluded "oral use of snuffs of the types used in North America and western Europe is carcinogenic to humans".

A WHO committee on tobacco has also acknowledged the evidence is inconclusive regarding health consequences for snus consumers.

To date, only Sweden and EFTA-member Norway have remained exempt from the ban due to a popular movement during the run-up to the 1994 referendum for Sweden's EU membership. The movement demanded that Sweden was made exemption from the EU sale ban of snus a condition of the membership treaty.

In December of last year, EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg told a Brussels press conference, "We are not banning smoking, we are making it less attractive."

Responding to the broader points of the EU directives involved in banning snus and making cigarettes "less attrative, Patrik Hildingsson of tobacco giant Swedish Match said, "We regret that the current ban on snus exports is going to remain in place. 

"The Commission is picking winners and losers in the market," he said, calling the extension of the snus export ban a "one-sided trade ban".

"Other snus manufacturers in Europe are able to export to Sweden, but we can't export to the rest of Europe," said Hildingsson.

The news comes as industries and campaigners continue to express concerns over the EU's indiscriminate approach to tobacco or nicotine-based products. Recently it was reported that the EU is considering a ban of sorts on electronic cigarettes, a move that campaigners have called, "madness" given the products' ability to ween people off actual cigarettes.

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