This too comes as no surprise. The Swedish Snus Ban in the EU isn't about public health and never has been. Swedish snus was first banned in the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) before Sweden was even an EU Member. In order to gain Sweden's membership into the EU, the Commission came up with a "Swedish Exemption". The Exemption allows Swedes to manufacture, buy, sell and use Swedish snus within Sweden's borders but not anywhere else within the EU.
Why Sweden let this stand I have no idea. Forget the free trade implications; the EU Parliament of that time was basically stating that they viewed Swedish snus as a very harmful product which EU citizens must be protected from....unless they lived in Sweden. Swedes were free to use this "deadly" substance as much as they liked, for all the EU cared.
As far as the EU Commission was concerned, the health of Swedish citizens apparently ranked much lower than that of citizens of other EU nations. By joining the EU under the Exemption and what it implied, Sweden effectively validated the junk science and old wives tales which led to the EU Snus Ban in the first place.
This has continued for decades and to this day, the EU TPD still includes the Snus Ban. A new TPD was expected to be issued this year which would continue the EU Swedish Snus Ban, despite real evidence and Sweden's polite requests to the Health Commission to base their decision on the facts and real science.
A funny thing happened which put a bit of a crimp in the process earlier this year. It seems a Maltese associate of Health Commissioner John Dalli attempted to extort a 60MM Euro bribe from Swedish snus manufacturer Swedish Match AB to have the exemption removed from the new TPD....so much for the EU Health Commission standing on principle. SMAB blew the whistle, Dalli, proclaiming his innocence, resigned (or was fired, depending whose account you accept) a couple of hours later, and that ongoing saga continues playing out in the EU media.
I commend MEP Engström for both his letter and the publishing of the response he received. I commend everyone who has and will continue to educate the citizens of the world on the health facts concerning Swedish snus. This effort must and will continue, but let us not fool ourselves. Facts and real science have always had very little to do with the EU Snus Ban. More importantly, facts and real science are only ancillary players in having the Snus Ban eliminated once and for all: we now know all you need is 60MM Euro and to be a corrupt company.
Some have criticized Swedish Match for not doing the easy thing by paying the bribe and ending the Snus Ban quietly. I'm sure it was tempting given Sweden's success or lack thereof to eliminate the EU Snus Ban through diplomacy.
Thanks to the additional greed and corruption exposed by the Dalli affair, this is probably Sweden's best time and chance to overcome the usual greed and corruption and end the EU Snus Ban. Whether or not Sweden successfully takes advantage of the spotlight and kills the EU Snus Ban is not a certainty.
You see, this is not a battle of science over quackery; truth over lies; fact over fiction. This is a battle of wills, pure and simple. Sweden and the truth about their snus versus Big Pharmaceutical, Anti-All-Tobacco Extremists, Big Government Taxation and hugely obscene cigarette profits at the expense of the public health.
Honestly, I am getting tired of refuting the same lies; the same shameless anti-snus extremism; the same anti-Sweden EU crap, over and over again. The time has come for us to stop relying on reasoning with corrupt extremists and special interests. It's time to take off our gloves, exploit the publicity Dalli handed us, and just go beat the Snus Ban out of the TPD, once and for all.
Why the EU Commission Doesn't Like or Respect Sweden
The EU's continuing ban of Swedish snus never had a scientific basis. Regardless, now that the snus ban has been in place, the anti-all-tobacco extremists in Brussels see the removal of the Swedish snus ban from the TPD as a defeat to their anti-all-tobacco jihad and will fight it. Protecting Big Pharma is certainly another major reason as is ironically, protecting Big Cigarette which provides huge amounts of tax revenue the EU Member States could ill afford to lose.
The Snus Ban also represents a slap in the face to Sweden by singling out snus and forbidding the free trade of this iconic Swedish product within the EU. Free trade and travel were among the driving forces for the EU creation in the first place.
The Swedish Exemption on snus was granted based on the assumption that as long as Swedes could obtain their own snus domestically, the issue within Sweden would never rise to a level which would threaten the TPD. Free trade for all; deadly cigarettes legal in all EU countries, and to hell with Sweden and their rights of free and unrestricted trade as an EU Member Nation.
The Dalli scandal shines a much brighter light on the hypocrisy of the Health Commission and Brussels in general. Now is the best opportunity in years to eliminate the Swedish snus ban from the TPD but will it happen?
Swedes are not the most vocal or forceful of negotiators and Brussels has taken advantage of that to date; brushing off any serious consideration of lifting the Swedish snus ban based on proven science or the public health.
Will Sweden keep the issue front and center, attack the anti-Swedish snus extremists for what they are, and keep fighting loudly until the Snus Ban is removed from this upcoming TPD....or will they continue to politely to present their very valid and reasoned arguments hoping the EU will act logically?
If the new TPD is born with the Swedish snus ban still in place, will the Swedish government and their representatives again just say, "well, we tried."? Will Sweden and its citizens, snus users and non-snus users, be content with being ignored again; be content with being an afterthought in Brussels; be content with their second class EU citizenship? After all, if Swedes are too tepid to champion their own national product on the EU stage, why should Brussels bother to take Sweden's interests seriously in any other matter which comes before the EP?
MEP Engström has the moral if not legal highground in his letter; the typical EU response of "don't bother us with facts" answer could also have been expected. The question again is what happens next?
Will Mr. Engström, the Swedish Government, and the Swedish people push back hard doing whatever it takes to eliminate the Snus Ban? Will they spend diplomatic capital and actively seek out (or drag out) allies to not "attempt" to eliminate the snus ban, but to kill the snus ban and drive a stake through it's heart once and for all? Do the Swedish people finally accept that the ban is a bigger issue than Swedish snus; it is defining point for Sweden, their status as an EU Member Nation and thei respect their great country is due?
The Dalli bribery scandal shines a public light on the political, anti-snus extremism, disgusting corruption, and lack of respect for Sweden as a nation for all in the EU to see. This is Sweden's best chance to reassert their trade rights, national pride, and end the dismissive EU opinion of Sweden once and for all. In my view, Sweden has no choice but to succeed.
The Health Commission has ordered Denmark to cease domestic sales of snus. Denmark to their credit appears to be offended enough to fight back, despite snus being a fraction of what it is and represents in Sweden.
If the new TPD maintains the Swedish snus ban, Sweden might as well and go ahead, adopt the Euro and learn to speak French. Another TPD discriminating against Sweden will establish that for all practical purposes, Sweden is the dog under the Brussels dining table, eating whatever scrapes the EU cares to drop on the floor.
In five or ten years, when the EU orders Sweden to cease domestic sales of snus, there will be no fighting back and no where to run.
From the SnusCENTRAL Bunker,
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting From Sweden and the USA for SnusCENTRAL.org