February 23, 2011 - The Swedish government (again) is now urging the European Union (EU) to legalise snus (moist powder tobacco). But this has led to a quarrel between the government and its own experts in the National Board of Health and Welfare and in the Swedish National Institute for Public Health.
Except for Sweden, snus is outlawed by the European Union (EU) (in May, 1992) mainly because it was believed it would be used above all by young people, and that oral tobacco contained particularly large quantities of carcinogenic substances. (The use of snus is a vital component of the Swedish heritage - its use dating back over 200 years.)
The argument from the Swedish government is that the ban on snus goes against the free market. Sweden's Minister for Health and Social Affairs, Göran Hägglund writes that "there is no argument at all which motivates a ban on snus" (quote from Svenska Dagbladet) and he continues that snus is clearly less dangerous than cigarets. Therefore he claimst that the ban on snus "lacks logic".
But at the same time, experts in Sweden do not agree with Minister Hägglund. The Swedish argument of 'harm reduction' with convincing smokers to instead start with snus is "a myth" according to these experts.
The problem today is that the tobacco issue has become a health issue in the EU as it has been moved to the EU's Directorate for health. This is why is the Swedish Minister for health and not for trade is answering the letter from the EU. This has created a conflict and a dilemma between Swedish authorities.
The government's expert organs for health issues; the National Board of Health and Welfare and the Swedish National Institute for Public Health, are both strongly negative towards snus and have warned several times for its consequences. They are careful in openly criticising the government's letter to the EU but they are against an increased market for snus. Dr. Gunilla Bolinder, Director of Education at Stockholm's Karolinska University Hospital points out, "To sing the praises of SNUS is a deathblow to over 20 years of hard tobacco preventive work. SNUS only saves the life of the tobacco industry" (SNUS gets the thumbs-down NEWS-24 1/31/2007).
Reference: Sweden wants the EU to legalise snus, Mats Öhlén (firstname.lastname@example.org), StockholmNews.com, 2/20/2011.
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