Snus ban ‘valid’
The smokers’ lobby group Forest has criticized the opinion of a leading advisor to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after he deemed the EU ban on the sale of snus to be “valid”.
According to the ECJ’s Advocate General, Saugmandsgaard Øe, the EU legislature “did not exceed the limits of its discretion in concluding that lifting the prohibition on the placing on the market of tobacco for oral use could result in an overall increase in the harmful effects of tobacco within the EU”.
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said that maintaining an EU-wide ban on snus discriminated against adults who were looking for a safer means of consuming nicotine.
“Tobacco is legal and adults should have the right to purchase a range of products, some of which are less harmful than others,” he said.
“The evidence suggests that snus is not risk free but it’s significantly safer than combustible cigarettes.
“To deny consumers the choice of switching to an alternative, reduced-risk product defies logic or common sense.”
Snus is banned in all EU member states except Sweden, and, according to a report in The Local, snus producer Swedish Match failed in a 2004 attempt to challenge the rules restricting sales and exports of the product. It had since launched a challenge against UK laws preventing the sale of tobacco for oral use, which are in line with the EU’s 2014 Tobacco Products Directive, arguing that the EU legislature had failed since the earlier ruling to ‘take into account development in scientific knowledge’. The High Court of Justice for England and Wales subsequently asked the ECJ to judge whether the prohibition of the product was valid.
In a note posted on its website, Swedish Match said that though the Advocate General had found that the use of snus was less hazardous than smoking cigarettes, he did not recommend the ECJ to find the EU snus ban invalid.
‘In the opinion, the Advocate General gives the EU legislature a very broad discretion in areas which involve political, economic and social choices,’ the note said. ‘He states that in his opinion it is not the task of the Court to assess the scientific evidence submitted in the case but rather recommends that the Court leave such assessments to the EU legislature.’
“We are disappointed with the opinion and hope that the Court will come to a different conclusion in its final ruling,” Marie-Louise Heiman, general counsel at Swedish Match, was quoted as saying. “The reasoning behind the Advocate General’s opinion would severely limit the Court’s assessment of EU legislation. With this reasoning, almost any product could be banned in the EU without a meaningful judicial review.”
The final ruling is expected toward the end of the second quarter or in the third quarter of this year.