Finland - proposal to ban tobacco display, total ban on SNUS..

December 19, 2008 - The Tobacco Policy Working Group of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health restricting the display of tobacco products at retail points and for ending the import of snus (moist snuff).

The Cancer Society of Finland commended the group and summarized the content of the proposal: The removal of tobacco products from where consumers can see them is a reminder that tobacco is not an ordinary consumer product, but one that poses a severe threat of cancer (banning the display of tobacco on open shelves and vending machine sales and criminalizing the sale of tobacco to underaged people). The cancer society hopes that tobacco will become a redundant and pointless product. This would save the lives of some 5,000 people in Finland each year, says Harri Vertio, the general secretary of the Cancer Society. It is natural that the ban on tobacco advertising be extended to include cigarette packs, so that they are not themselves means of advertising brands.

Under Finland's current legislation passengers are allowed to import snuff from Sweden, the only European Union (EU) where snus can be sold, for private use. The Cancer Society of Finland points out that due to the use of snus, men in Sweden are the biggest consumers of tobacco products in Europe. The banning of snus imports is therefore a good thing, because nicotine addiction due to snus use is still relatively minor in Finland.

There have recently been indications that snus is being forced on consumers when there is no spontaneous demand for the product. I am astonished at the negligence shown by politicians on this issue. Snus contains 28 different carcinogens. Why would anyone want to recommend its use in Finland?, says Vertio.

Vertio says that Sweden’s allowance by the EU to continue to produce snus is only on the condition that the product is not distributed to other countries. There is a need at EU level to examine how Sweden is fulfilling its membership obligations.

Dr Matti Rautalahti, who is a specialist member of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s working group says that the cancer threat posed by snus has been demonstrated by numerous studies. The most recent of them, published last spring, indicates that snus causes cancer of the mouth and throat. The cancer threat of snus is not a matter of opinion but an established fact, says Rautalahti. Snus triples the danger of mouth and throat cancer. It doubles the threat of cancer of the pancreas. This type of cancer is extremely difficult to treat and carries only a three percent chance of survival after five years.

Reference: Finnish working group proposes total snuff, Nedws Room Finland, 12/18/2008; Cancer Society of Finland lauds ban on snus importsThe Finnish News agency (STT Info), 12/18/2008.

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