Christian Engström, Pirat

25 februari 2013

I Finally Met The Anti-Snus Lobbyists

Filed under: snus — Christian Engström @ 10:24

The anti-snus lobbyists refuse to even discuss how to save lives by harm reduction and helping people stop smoking

Last Thursday I finally met with the lobbyists from the organisation Smoke Free Partnership, which is very active lobbying in the European parliament to keep the ban on snus in the EU outside Sweden.

Regular readers of this blog will know that this in itself represents an achievement. Normally lobbyists in Brussels are very keen to meet members of the parliament, in particular members that will be working on dossiers that the lobbyists are interested in. But not the anti-snus lobby.

I sent an invitation by email, repeated it on the blog, sent more emails, renewed the invitation publicly, until I finally managed to get a meeting (which was then cancelled and moved to a later date). But last Thursday, I finally got the meeting I had been asking for.

Smoke Free Partnership was represented by two lobbyists, but it was one of them, whom I have previously heard speaking at seminars inside the parliament, who did almost all of the talking.

I started out immediately by asking the question that I would honestly want to hear their answer to:

– You accept nicotine patches and gums and similar products (although they are not healthy in themselves), because they help some people stop smoking, and therefore have a net positive health effect. Why aren’t you prepared to even discuss if snus is a product that can work in the same way, perhaps even more effectively than the currently available products, and help save lives by helping people stop smoking?

I received no answer at all to this question during the 35 minute meeting, although I repeated it a number of times.

The anti-snus lobbyist said that harm reduction was not her priority, so she would not answer that question.

I said that for me, the primary goal of the tobacco directive should be to reduce the harm caused by tobacco by fact based policies. (This should have been a safe bet, as it is more or less a quote from the directive itself, which talks about ”a high level of protection of health […] based on scientific facts”). Didn’t she agree with that?

No, harm reduction was not one of her priorities, she said.

From this point, we never really got any further in our discussion.

To be fair to the lobbyist, I want to stress that I am sure she was using and understanding the term ”harm reduction” in the more narrow sense of reducing harm among people who are already smoking, as opposed to reduction of the harm caused in total in society. Her priority was to reduce harm by preventing non-smokers, in particular young ones, from starting to smoke.

This is of course a goal that both I and everybody else agrees with. Everybody agrees that smoking is really dangerous for the health, and that the best way of preventing smoking related diseases is to prevent people, in particular young ones, from starting to smoke in the first place.

This is the primary focus of the revision of the tobacco directive, and quite rightly so. I am confident that there will be a large consensus in the parliament about this.

But I am also concerned about helping current smokers quit, or reduce their smoking. What works is different for different people. Nicotine gums and patches work for some smokers, so it is a good thing that they are available throughout Europe for those who are helped by them.

The experience from Sweden shows that snus is helpful to some people — quite a lot of people, actually — so that they can stop smoking. Sweden has the lowest rates of smoking related diseases in the EU among men (snus is primarily used by men in Sweden), because we have the lowest rate of smoking.

There is strong scientific evidence that relaxing the current restrictions on the sale of snus is more likely to produce a net benefit than harm.

Why are neither the anti-snus lobbyists nor the Commission prepared to even discuss this?

I find this very frustrating, so I throw the question open. Is there anybody out there who is prepared to answer the question that Smoke Free Partnership refused to answer?

Why do you want to ban snus but allow nicotine patches, when there is evidence that snus helps more people stop smoking, and has a net health benefit on the population?

Since I am the shadow rapporteur for the Green group for the tobacco directive in the Internal Market Committee IMCO, I really honestly would want an answer from somebody who wants to maintain the ban on snus.


Declaration of interest: I am a snus user, which has allowed me to cut down my smoking drastically, even though I have not stopped completely yet. My wife used to smoke, but gave it up completely several years ago by switching to eucalyptus flavoured snus.

6 kommentarer

  1. Dear Christian – the anti-snus lobby likes to pretend there is a consensus for banning snus. But there isn’t. Just last week a group of experts called on the Swedish Government to highlight the great public health success that there has been in Sweden as a result of snus, and to challenge the politics of the EU to change policy. The letter with supporting data and quotes from experts is available here: This calls or each member state to make its own decision rather than lifting the ban everywhere, even though that is justified (but politically unlikely in a single move).

    This follows a letter from 15 international experts to former-Commissioner Dalli in 2011 making similar arguments in a more technical way: you can read that letter here: – clearly this was ignored by the Commission.

    As your contact with the anti-snus lobby shows, there are anti-snus ‘positions’ but there are no ‘arguments’. The fact remains there is no scientific, ethical or legal basis for banning snus outside Sweden – it is pure politics. That means that if it comes to a choice, the Commission, most member state governments, many MEPs, and the anti-harm-reduction lobby in Brussels would rather look tough on tobacco than protect the health of European citizens. The tragedy is that this evidence-free posturing will have a cost in cancer, cardiovascular disease and lung damage – and mean more Europeans die as a result. It isn’t a game: there are consequences and responsibilities. Because the problem is political, the solution must be political too – I hope your campaign for a new open-minded approach to this in the European institutions succeeds. Please be assured you have expert opinion and argument on your side.

    Clive Bates

    Kommentar av Clive Bates (@Clive_Bates) — 25 februari 2013 @ 12:05

  2. Förbenade korrupta mutkolvar. Hade Sverige betalat de begärda mutorna så hade upphävandet av snusförbudet seglat igenom, utan någon diskussion.

    Kommentar av Dennis Nilsson — 25 februari 2013 @ 18:27

  3. […] Christian Engström, Pirate MEP: I Finally Met The Anti-Snus Lobbyists […]

    Pingback av Cutting smoking saves more in health bills than lost tax: EU — 26 februari 2013 @ 4:46

  4. Are there any (non-commercial) organisations outside of Sweden that are working to legalize snus in Europe? Is this o topic at all for Green and Pirate parties in Europe?

    Kommentar av Kung CG — 26 februari 2013 @ 7:57

  5. Hur kan det komma sig att man inte tillåter snus inom EU, samtidigt som cigaretter kan försäljas inom där? När det gäller röktobak, så vet alla idag att den typen av tobaksbruk är synnerligen hälsovådligt medans det inte finns någon vetenskaplig studie som kan någon allvarlig hälorisk i samband med snusning. En helt bisarr situation skulle man kunna tycka.
    Jag misstänker att det enkla svaret torde vara att dom EU politiker som försöker upprätthålla snusförbudet inom EU är köpta av cigarettillverkarna.

    Kommentar av Peter Andersson — 8 mars 2013 @ 15:57

  6. […] basis they arrived at this position.  They have never been able to explain and apparently don’t believe they need to. They don’t seem that bothered about more deaths from cancer, heart disease and respiratory […]

    Pingback av Massaging the evidence to fit the policy: a critique of the European Commission’s case for banning snus « The counterfactual — 21 mars 2013 @ 11:25

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