Less than 1.5 percent of the 107 million smokers in the EU have access to viable, pragmatic and consumer friendly alternatives to their cigarettes. They are simply left behind with a very challenging dilemma; quit or die.
Unfortunately for those (for the overwhelming majority) who don’t view premature death as an option, the alternatives available just don’t seem to work that well. Hotlines, seminars, hypnosis, acupuncture, sprays and inhalers have not yet demonstrated a reliable success rate. According to the Euro Barometer 2007 (no. 272) almost one third of all adult smokers in the EU have tried to give up cigarette smoking during the last twelve months – and three percent of them basically quit every month. It is just not fair.
Vice President Public Affairs
preserves the integrity
of the EU free
What do we tell the cigarette smokers that constantly try to quit in Greece, UK, Italy, Belgium, France and all other member states that report smoking rates well above 30 percent? Keep the dream alive?
In all fairness and even though cigarette smokers in Sweden enjoy the luxury of the availability of snus, contrary to their counterparts in the other member states, snus is not the answer for everyone. But snus plays an important role which is reflected in the Swedish public health statistics. No country in Europe reports smoking rates below 20 percent, besides Sweden which has less than 15 percent. Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) concluded a few years ago that the unique tobacco consumption pattern in Sweden has had positive public health consequences. And finally, this insight seems to have reached Brussels as well.
In fact, one of the scientific committees of the European Commission, the Scientific Committee of Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), recently also reached that conclusion including that Swedish snus use is not a risk factor for oral cancer and is not a significant predictor of future smoking (the so-called gateway hypothesis).
Swedish snus was originally prohibited in 1992 in the EU due to a perception that the product was considered to be a major risk factor as regards to cancer and particularly attractive to young people (since snus was regarded as the gateway to smoking). Little did the EU policymakers know about Snus at that time and Sweden did not have a saying in the matter since it acceded to the EU three years later. In 2001, however, the EU decided to replace the mandatory cancer warning on all snus cans with a more general one that better reflected the established health risks.
If common sense prevails – and it usually does - the current EU ban will be replaced with a sound and fair product regulation that recognizes the variety of tobacco products and thus its various health effects. The health rationale behind the Swedish snus prohibition does not exist anymore. And a sound product regulation would also preserve the integrity of one of the founding principles of the Union, free trade, which still remains as a cornerstone.
But it may still take some time. As Winston Churchill phrased it; “It is very easy for someone to just make up a claim, and for others to repeat it, while to compile the evidence and careful argument to show it is wrong is very difficult”.