Swedish Match which is for all practical purposes synonymous with Swedish snus, produces top Swedish snus brands General, Ettan, Grov, Göteborgs Rapé, and 16 other top selling snus brands today. Swedish Match snus brands own an 85% market share in Sweden. General Snus is the top selling brand of Swedish Snus in the world.
Swedish Citizens Outraged by Secret EU Snus Ban Plan
If the EU Commission themselves leaked the proposed ban on all tobacco flavorings to gauge public response, they seriously underestimated the wrath of Swedish public. Poll numbers are changing constantly, but the most recent we have of this writing from the Swedish publication Aftonbladet is of 86,270 respondents, 76.35% oppose any ban on Swedish snus.
Over one million Swedes use snus; or one in nine Swedish citizens. Not only are Swedish snus users stunned by this development, but Swedes see this as an arrogant targeted betrayal of Sweden by the EU in Brussels.
Sweden originally refused to join the EU because of a politically and scientifically vapid ban the EU had placed on the sale of Swedish snus within the EU. Finally the EU caved to the extent of exempting Sweden itself from the snus ban.
For the last 15+ years, Swedish politicians and their EU representatives have been working for a lifting of the EU snus ban as it unfairly restricts Sweden's right to free trade within the EU. As the new EU TPD is expected to come up for a vote in the 4th quarter of 2012, the stakes and the arguments have risen.
The argument by Sweden to remove the EU snus ban from the TPD was set on its side by this latest development of banning tobacco flavorings. Effectively, the EU is breaking it's original agreement with Sweden by not actually banning snus, but banning all the flavoring ingredients required to produce snus. These flavoring ingredients, like Swedish snus itself, have been regulated as food products since 1970 by the Swedish National Food Administration (Sweden's version of FDA).
This latest action to poison the new TPD, which will be effective for at least 10 to 20 years if history is any guide, reeks of a long standing anti-Sweden bias by the EU central government if not most of the member nations themselves.
As the Euro crisis continues to threaten the economic implosion of Europe, don't be fooled into thinking the EU is acting only for the sake of the public health any more than FDA is here in the United States. In the end this all boils down to money and power.
While cigarettes are still smoked globally and Big Pharmaceutical's ineffective and even dangerous products like Chantix are praised by the anti-nicotine extremists, any form of smokeless or reduced risk tobacco products are hamstrung by bureaucratic hurdle after hurtle. Anti-all-tobacco junk science is quoted as gospel while real science and the living laboratory which is Sweden since 1970 when it comes to snus are derided and buried by most of the mainstream media; ignored by the Anti-Snus Extremists.
It's "Stupid to pick a quarrel with me and a million Swedes"
Modern Swedes are generally non-confrontational. While the lifting of the current EU Snus Ban would be desirable economically and to promote the public health, many Swedes didn't rush to arms so long as Sweden was still allowed to produce their favorite snuses and sell them within Sweden.
This all changed with the leaked EU Commission Health Directorate proposal. In Europe, #snusriot and #snus were the top trending hashtags on twitter this morning. Anger over the EU betrayal spills beyond snus as tweet after tweet calls for Sweden to secede from the EU and questions what value the EU really is to Sweden.
The original vote in Sweden to join the EU was approved by a very small majority. Millions of Swedes were now wondering if it isn't time to revisit that decision or at a minimum re-evaluate what the EU can do for Sweden instead of in spite of Sweden.
Swedish politicians, appointed officials, and representatives to the EU have loudly joined the Swedish masses vowing this measure will not pass. Previously luke warm politicos are now standing on the barricades vowing to protect snus and snus ingredients from EU tampering within Sweden.
Instead of retreating, EU spokesmen, while explaining that the flavoring bans were focused on cigarettes, agreed they "probably could affect" other tobacco products including Swedish snus and presumably nasal snuff produced and sold; often untaxed, in other EU countries. Predictably, the fires of Swedish outrage were fanned even higher.
I began to wonder what the EU Commission was really trying to accomplish with the unexplained "leaking" of the Tobacco Flavoring Ban proposal and their apparent defense of it.
So why was EU plan leaked and what is the real purpose?
In sifting through numerous Swedish and European press reports and political pronouncements concerning the Snus Flavoring Ban, I discovered a statement which was glaringly different than most others; especially the remarks of most Swedish politicians.
It came from the Swedish Food Workers Union which represents snus industry workers. They had sent an open letter to Swedish Health Minister Maria Larsson demanding action on lifting the Swedish snus ban in the EU. "Sweden has a unique ability with Swedish snus to improve the European public health while Swedish exports will be strengthened."
I reviewed Larsson's comments concerning the snus ingredients ban and like other Government officials, she was strident in her opposition to the snus flavoring ban. In an interview with Aftonbladet, she stated ""We will not give in, but will actively promote that the Swedish exception (concerning snus) should be maintained."
EU Commission spokesman on health issues, Frédéric Vincent, said that the Commission's position with respect to snus is unchanged--that Sweden has an exemption from the current snus the ban in the EU. He also reiterated that it is unlikely that the Commission will table a proposal that this ban on snus in the rest of the EU be lifted.
In short, Larsson and the vast majority of Swedish officials vowing a fight to the death were defending Sweden's current exempt status under the current EU TBD.
Vincent, speaking for the EU Health Commission, gave a very vague reassurance but conversely was very pointed and specific in saying that lifting of the EU Snus ban within the new TPD is simply not going to happen.....and the continued general ban on snus within the EU is what this is all really about.
The EU Commission is engaged in political theater and Sweden, at least at this point, is following the EU's script to the letter. In the end, the snus ingredients ban will be defeated. Sweden won't pull out of the EU. Swedish politicos will hold their swords high and trumpet Sweden's victory over Brussels loudly and often.
Their price for this "victory" will be a new EU Tobacco Products Directive which will continue the current EU Snus Ban for decades to come. Then the political curtain will fall leaving Sweden no better off than it was before. The EU Commission will be the ones on stage bowing to the loud applause from Swedish/Swedish snus haters of all EU denominations.....unless Sweden takes their new-found boldness and re-writes the ending to the TPD saga before time runs out.
Reporting from the front lines in the War Against All Tobacco,
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org