The future of Sweden’s snus, a moist oral tobacco product banned in the EU since 1992, is currently under review as part of the EU’s evaluation of the tobacco directive, reports Euractiv.
Originating in the 18th century, snus is a unique Swedish tobacco product and differs from newer alternatives like heated tobacco, e-cigarettes or nicotine pouches. Sweden secured an exemption for snus during its EU accession negotiations, limiting its sale to within the country.
The EU aims to achieve a “Tobacco-free Generation” by 2040 as tobacco is a major health risk, responsible for 27 percent of all cancers in the EU. Sweden, expected to have smoking rates drop below 5 percent in 2023, is at the forefront of this effort.
Patrik Strömer, Secretary-General of the Swedish Snus Manufacturers’ Association, believes that the EU’s ban on snus is due to a lack of knowledge about the product, and he highlights that it has proven beneficial in reducing smoking-related diseases in Sweden.
Karl Fagerström, a tobacco and nicotine researcher, finds it odd that the U.S. has allowed snus in the market while the EU has banned it, despite using similar data. He points to WHO data showing that Swedish snus users have lower smoking-attributable deaths, especially regarding lung cancer.
On the other hand, Italian MEP Alessandra Moretti argues that snus is associated with diseases like cardiovascular issues and cancers of the digestive system. Fagerström counters that snus usage in Sweden is not linked to oral cancer and should be avoided during pregnancy, similar to any nicotine use.
The EU Court of Justice deems tobacco products for oral use harmful, addictive and potentially a gateway to tobacco use. Advocates for snus maintain that in Sweden, snus use doesn’t lead to subsequent smoking, supported by declining smoking rates among the young population.