A Swedish tobacco company is challenging the European Union ban on snus. Swedish Match is asking the British High Court of Justice to send the case to an EU court to review the original grounds for the ban, according to a Reuters story last week. Like vaping, snus is a reduced-harm alternative to smoking.
Vaping and snus: different products, same debate
Snus is pasteurized oral tobacco that has been used in Sweden for almost 200 years, and is also popular in Norway. It has been at the heart of the debate over tobacco harm reduction (THR) for decades, anticipating many of the arguments now being made both for and against e-cigarettes. Most experts believe that snus poses almost no health risk to users, and could be a powerful tool to prevent uptake of cigarettes and help smokers quit.
Nevertheless, the EU banned snus in 1992, citing a single World Health Organization study that supposedly showed some risk to users. Despite the fact that several long-term studies in Sweden have showed no differences in health outcomes between snus users and control groups of non-users, the ban has never been lifted. Sweden has by far the lowest rates of “tobacco-related” diseases in Europe.
Sweden obtained an exemption to the snus ban when it entered the EU in 1995. Norway is not an EU member. Recently, American companies have begun selling products called snus, although there are differences in how they’re manufactured.
A court decision may take two years
Swedish Match spokesman Patrik Hildingsson told Reuters the firm filed a claim form in Britain on July 1, requesting the court ask the European Court of Justice to revisit the legal grounds of the ban. “We are asking the UK court to make a reference to the European Court of Justice on the validity of article 17 in the Tobacco Products Directive.”.
“The novelty of snus has been one of the main arguments for not allowing snus on the internal market. That circumstance has now changed,” Swedish Match told Reuters. Their claim is that since other novel products (e-cigs and vapor products) have been allowed by the EU, that objection should now be invalid. If the case goes to the European Court, Swedish Match expects a ruling no sooner than 2018.