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The Debator: A better alternative for the Union’s 100 million smokers
DEBATE. Good news for Swedish exports! Swedish snus may now be marketed in the US as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes. After a five-year process, the US Food and Drug Administration has finally given the go-ahead. This is a valuable advance for Swedish exports and can pave the way for snuff to be released freely on the EU market as well.
Just a few months ago, Switzerland became the third country in Europe to open for the sale of Swedish snuff, after Sweden and Norway. Already it was a welcome news for many Swedish companies, but the US decision may be even more significant. When the world’s largest and most important economy takes such a clear position for the Swedish snuff, it will have an impact on more places in the world. New markets will emerge for Swedish products.
I hope that the decisions in the US and Switzerland will set an example for how the EU will handle the snuff issue later on. Today, Sweden is the only EU country where the sale of snuff is allowed. In all other EU countries, the marketing and sale of snuff is completely prohibited. Italians and French continue to flourish and cigarette companies retain their monopoly position. In what is to be a free and open market, Swedish products are discriminated against, without any reasonable reason.
The arguments for snuff are all the more so. Should the French and Italians sniff instead of smoke, we could save thousands of lives in the EU every year. Sweden has the lowest proportion of smokers in the whole of Europe and significantly fewer cases of tobacco-related diseases than in the rest of the EU.
A big reason for this is the snuff. Of course, snus is not a health product, but its importance in keeping down the number of ill-health is well-coated and impossible to ignore. We have known this for a long time in Sweden. The same thing has been understood in the US – and this should also be recognized by the EU.
The free internal market is at the heart of EU cooperation and its basic idea is that free and fair competition should prevail. Trade in Europe was not intended to be dominated by bureaucrats, but in the snuff question it is obvious that this is the case. I believe that there is a need for a change in EU tobacco policy. The focus must be on minimizing the harmful effects of tobacco.
The EU’s 100 million smokers would need access to a significantly better alternative. It would mean public health benefits for Europe and economic benefits for Sweden when the companies here can broaden their market and thereby create new income and more jobs here at home.
If only one percent of the EU population chose to switch cigarettes to snuff, it would yield SEK 11 billion in export revenue to Sweden. The most harmful tobacco products, the cigarettes, would then no longer have a monopoly but gain competition from a healthier, cheaper and good much better alternative. Swedish companies could compete on the same terms as tobacco producers in other countries.
The US decision to promote Swedish snuff is now re-focusing on the snuff issue, which has unfortunately been silenced for a long time and ignored by the majority in Brussels. Now there are new and better conditions to put the issue in motion in the EU as well. I’m going to seize that opportunity.
Before the election, I promised to become the Swedish snus’s ambassador to Brussels. I know it will be a tough fight against many bureaucrats and other politicians, but I intend to take that fight. With the American decision in the back, I think the time is ripe. The EU should look after the US in the issue of snuff.
Jörgen Warborn, EU Member of Parliament (M)