There are several lobby organisations that are working very actively in Brussels to maintain the EU ban on the Swedish smoke-free tobacco product snus. I have made several attempts to get in contact with them, to give them a chance to present what facts and scientific studies (if any) they are basing the opposition to snus on. Unfortunately, they all refuse to meet with me, and none of them has even tried to answer my question about scientific grounds for their position.
I am very surprised at their refusal to even talk to me. I have made it very clear to them that I am taking an interest in the snus issue, and I am a member of the committee for internal market and consumer protection IMCO, which will be one of the key parliamentary committees for this directive. Yet the lobbyists neither want to meet me nor send me any written material to answer my question.
I can only interpret their refusal as an admission that they don’t actually have any scientific basis for their opposition to snus, but are driven by other motives.
Next Tuesday, December 18, the commission will present the revision of the tobacco products directive. This is the directive that former health commissioner Dalli was responsible for, before he had to resign after having tried to solicit a 60 million euro bribe from a Swedish snus manufacturer, in return for lifting the ban on snus. The Swedish company refused to pay the bribe, and instead reported the matter to the EU anti-corruption bureau Olaf, which led to commissioner Dalli’s resignation.
But the directive that will be presented next week still maintains the ban on snus.
I have put a written question to the commission, asking what scientific data on snus the ban is based on. The commission refused to present any facts behind the snus ban.
I have written an open letter to all anti-snus lobbyists, asking the same question. Three weeks ago, when I had received no reply, I emailed an invitation to come and meet me to the following three anti-snus organisations:
- Smoke Free Partnership
- Global Smokefree Partnership
- European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention ENSP
I received the following answer from ENSP:
Dear MEP Engström,
We thank you very much for your invitation. Unfortunately it is not possible for us to answer positively.
No explanation as to why, just a flat no.
The other two anti-snus organisations have not bothered to respond at all.
As I said, I find it truly remarkable that the anti-snus lobbyists are refusing to meet me. I have discussed this with colleagues who have served as MEPs longer than I have, and none of them have ever experienced lobbyists not wanting to meet them. Normally in the European parliament, lobbyists are very eager to spend as much time as possible with any MEP that is even remotely interested in whatever issue the lobbyists are pushing.
But not the anti-snus lobby, when they are challenged to present facts.
I think that EU policy in all areas, but especially when it comes to public health and safety, should be based on facts and science, not on corruption and bribes.
But it appears that the forces who oppose snus disagree.