Until now, Sweden had been engaged in a campaign of education and documented scientific proof that the EU Snus Ban had no basis in improving the public health.
Indeed, by allowing universal (with warning labels) cigarette use as well as other forms of carcinogenic smokeless tobacco products within the EU, the EU Commission was actually harming the public health, sickening and killing tens of millions of EU citizens before their time, and squandering expensive health care resources unnecessarily.
Plain packaging of cigarettes, disgusting graphics, and loud warning labels will not stop smoking: they will just bring cigarette cases back into fashion. [note to self: research any remaining cigarette case manufacturers. Buy stock in the most attractive. Don't tell anyone else. Ooops!]
The EU Snus Ban Saga - Attack of the Bureaucrats!
The new language Tonio Borg inserted is a direct attack on Swedish domestic manufacture and use of snus. Without the Swedish Exception in The Treaty Article 158 that the ban on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products does not apply to Sweden, Sweden would never have joined the EU. Borg is not attempting to stop this or violate the exception. He is using the TPD to define what Swedish snus is and is not.
Bergamot, eucalyptus, licorice, juniper, rose oil, lingonberry right through the recent wave of mint and other new flavors made to appeal more to the American palette will now not be allowed in snus within Sweden. Ironically, Swedes would have to travel to a non-EU country which allows snus in order to buy today's snuses made in Sweden. Snus for domestic Swedish consumption would be traditional indeed: tobacco, water and salt.
Confused yet? Don't dispair; the EU Commission has published this helpful Questions and Answers about the EU TPD to further anger you.
Another trial balloon floated last week was that all tobacco products would have to contain at least 85% tobacco. Swedish snus contains roughly 50% tobacco; most of the difference being made up with water. If this rule was implemented, it would be the end of Swedish snus, period.
Fortunately, the 85% tobacco rule doesn't appear in the TPD submitted today. I suspect that Big Cigarette didn't want to pay for the additional tobacco to replace the pencil shavings and God knows what else consitiute a cigarette and killed it. The exclusion of the 85% tobacco rule was only learned today.
When rumors of a flavoring ban and the 85% tobacco requirement which would effect Swedish snus were leaked last week, Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Björling stated that if the rumors were true and were included in the TPD, it meant an "all-out war" to defend Swedish snus from the EU Commission's meddling.
In private meetings Ewa Björling went as far as saying that regardless of what the TPD stipulated, Sweden would not comply concerning flavoring, content or similar mandates. Publicly, she was still hopeful that the irrational EU Snus Ban could be eliminated once and for all.
After the humiliation of the Dalli Bribery Scandal, this perceived challenge to the EU Commission's authority was more than European Commission President José Manuel Barroso could bear. Barroso was said to be furious with Björling. Never is an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat more dangerous then when they are backed into a corner. The EU Commission bureaucratic wagons began circling immediately.
Barosso responded in a "secret" communique to Borg angrily charging that Sweden had been violating the EU snus ban all along as the ferry traffic between Sweden and Finland allowed the unauthorized export of Swedish snus. Barossa obviously didn't think this argument through.
Otherwise, he would have included commercial airplanes departing from Sweden for arrival in any other EU country as allowing the same opportunity for illegal export of Swedish snus.
Likewise for any cruise ships which stopped at a Swedish port as part of their journey. I don't know if there are carrier pigeons in Sweden but if so, they too could be illegally exporting snus from Sweden one can at a time.
Regardless, Barosso wanted Sweden hauled up before the EU Court of "Justice". If his charge was accepted by the Court, it could impose hundreds of million euro fines and even result in a total snus ban within the Baltic Sea.
A spokesman for Commissioner Borg when asked to confirm Barosso suggested Borg follow this course stated that he (meaning the spokesman, not Tonio Borg) was unaware of any attempts to bring Sweden into Court". In bureaucrat-speak, that means Borg is already or is about to proceed in court against Sweden.
Time for Sweden to Step Up or Give Up
From my vantage point, I'm still not seeing what Sweden is gaining by being an EU Member State. Sweden pays more to the EU in fees, taxes, and other extortion methods than it receives back from the EU in aid.
One of the founding reasons for the EU's formation in the first place was to create a free trade zone among its members to the benefit of all. Sweden instead is slapped with an outright ban on trading its snus with the other 26 EU Members.
The Swedish government could and should have been reaping billions in taxes from the sale of Swedish snus within the EU. The snus manufacturers would need more people and more factories to meet the demand....and despite Borg's off-hand dismissal, there is a demand for Swedish snus within the EU.
This is admittedly a long shot, but if the EU Commission decided to tell the truth about the relative health differences between cigarette smoking and snusing, demand for snus would skyrocket into a win for everyone...the EU, Sweden, and 150 million or so EU cigarette smokers. It would be a win for the public health, a huge financial win for EU countries struggling with expensive overburdened health care systems, and it would justify Sweden remaining and even increasing its participation in the EU.
There is a myopic vision among some in Sweden; the same vision which led to joining the EU based on the Swedish Exemption, which can be summarized "as long as we Swedes can enjoy our snus without restriction, then everything else is irrelevant." To those adherents, I would say fine, keep turning over more of your tax money to the EU and receive less back year after year.
Keep paying more and more each year for your personal snus. If the Swedish snus export ban was lifted, economies of scale would ultimately reduce manufacturing costs. Increased tax revenue from exported snus would allow the Swedish government, if sane, to slow and even roll back taxes on snus purchased domestically.
To those of whose vision is limited by Sweden's borders, welcome to the 21st century. You are part of a global community and by choice, a part of the European Union. There are advantages in that, especially free trade, which you are squandering; money and jobs you are leaving on the table by choosing to only pay the price of admission but not reap the rewards.
To those who say Sweden is a small country and is not respected or considered as a player in the EU and global society, I say that is your own fault. You can put on blinders to world events and be totally Swedish-centric but you can't protect yourselves from the consequences of that unless you choose to.
Your Trade Minister Björling has frankly been a disappointment to me up until recently. She chose to follow a logical, methodical, fact-based, reasoned approach with the EU Commission over the Snus Ban. Unfortunately, ego-driven unaccountable and apparently corruptible professional bureaucrats with personal and special interest agendas don't respond to this approach. I'm talking as much about the FDA in the US as the EU Commission.
In light of today's events, some in Sweden are criticizing and even blaming Ewa Björling for putting Swedish snus for Swedes in jeopardy and causing the threat of massive punitive court-mandated fines and a Baltic Sea snus ban to be launched.
Instead of hiding under the bed gnashing your teeth in fear, all of you should be thanking the Minister for taking action long overdue. This isn't 1994 anymore. The world has changed, the EU has changed and Sweden is being short-changed.
When Ewa Björling declares an all out war for Sweden's rights and proper place, you should be standing right beside her in solidarity. You are Sweden and these are your rights, your treasure, and your place in the EU we are talking about.
If the TPD is adopted in 2014 as written today, then Sweden should ignore any restrictions placed on the content, ingredients, or character of your uniquely Swedish snus as has already been suggested.
If the EU Commission does take a petulant Barosso's wounded ego lead and take Sweden to the EU Court on his laughable charges, it doesn't matter. If the Court for reasons I won't speculate on actually finds against Sweden and levies massive fines, ignore them. If they impose a Baltic Sea snus ban, ignore it. If they try to enforce either.....let them do so at their own peril.
In 2012, Swedes don't bluff. Swedes don't pay bribes for the EU Commission bureaucrats to execute their fiduciary responsibilities correctly. Swedes refuse to bow before the egos and whims of foreign bureaucrats in Brussels. In 2012, Swedes have a narrow definition of "total war"; it means what it says. Once uttered it can not be taken back until Sweden's goals are achieved.
Surrender is only an option for a nation having no courage, no self-respect, and who lives dreaming of past glory as they stumble into a dark and insignificant future; in other words, France.
God Jul och ett Gott Nytt Snus År
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting From Sweden and the USA for SnusCENTRAL.org