News; Jul 7, 2004 CET

Hearings in the European Court

ON JUNE 8, THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE heard two cases concerning the ban on the sale of snuff within the EU.

The two cases originate, respectively, from the High Court in the UK and the regional administrative court in Minden, Germany. Both cases were referred to the European Court for adjudication of the legality of Article 8 of the relevant EU directive, which bans the sale of snuff. Since both cases relate to the same matter, they were addressed at the same time by the European Court.

“We take the view that the snuff ban violates several fundamental principles of EU law, including, but not restricted to, the principle of the free movement of goods within the EU countries,” says Bo Aulin, Chief Legal Counsel at Swedish Match.

“But we also consider that the ban should be lifted against the background of the scientific support that exists for products with lower health risks, such as Swedish snuff, as an alternative to cigarettes.

“However, a judicial process always involves a degree of uncertainty,” continues Bo Aulin. “But even if the European Court rules that the ban is not unlawful, we are convinced that it will still be removed within a few years, since it is so obvious that it does not benefit public health or serve any other social purpose.”

In a recently published scientific study in the European Journal of Epidemiology, it was estimated that some 200,000 of the 500,000 smoking-related deaths each year in the EU could be avoided if other countries in Europe adopted a Swedish pattern of tobacco consumption. The study* maintains that the lower level of smoking-related mortality in Swedish men is linked to the use of snuff.

Ola Wiklund, Professor of European Community Law at Stockholm University, commented on the hearing in the Aftonbladet newspaper on March 30:

“The issue to be examined is whether the ban is necessary to protect public health. It is contrary to the principle of the free movement of goods - a principle that carries a lot of weight. I will not be surprised if Sweden is soon able to begin exporting snuff.”

* “The burden of mortality from smoking: Comparing Sweden with other countries in the European Union,” Brad Rodu and Phil Cole.