Snus and regulations
Swedish Match believes that smokers should have access to viable, non-combustible tobacco and nicotine alternatives with dramatically lower negative health effects compared to cigarettes.
Swedish Match believes that tobacco regulation will continue to become more global in character and steadily increase in scope. It is Swedish Match’s aspiration to see a move from “one-size-fits-all” tobacco regulation to an approach that takes into account the differences between product categories and their accompanying risk profiles. Smokeless tobacco and nicotine regulation should ultimately be based upon standards which strive to ensure that consumers receive attractive products with the highest possible product quality with minimal risk i.e. product standards based on the same principles as food regulation.
Truly effective regulation must be evidence based, and requires an exchange of knowledge and experience between governments and industry. Swedish Match believes that better regulation is achieved by maintaining focus on those who are directly affected by the regulation – consumers, customers/retailers and manufacturers. Swedish Match monitors relevant regulatory developments and is actively engaged with stakeholders in various ways, while recognizing that regulatory decisions will ultimately be at the discretion of the lawmaker.
There is an increasingly enlightened approach toward harm reduction in, for example the US, UK, some countries in Europe, and New Zealand. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reaffirmed its intention to regulate in a manner that will encourage consumers to migrate from cigarettes to less harmful products. The FDA’s stated philosophy is very well aligned with our vision and should be beneficial for both General snus and ZYN nicotine pouches from a regulatory perspective. Certain other countries continue to take an alternative approach by not recognizing the positive role these types of products can have in reducing the harm caused by cigarette smoking. In several of these markets, we are actively working to change the situation toward the more enlightened approach, sometimes through litigation. We have, for instance, unsuccessfully challenged the ban on snus within the EU in the European Court of Justice and have been litigating the disproportionate and discriminatory decision to fold snus into the Norwegian plain packaging regulation.
Swedish Match monitors and evaluates the emerging scientific data and interacts with the scientific community. Swedish Match considers itself accountable to all stakeholders in addressing and informing them about the established science and relevant product information.
Swedish Match is also committed to preventing the availability of nicotine products to minors. The Company engages with retailers to ensure that they properly understand the need to enforce required age-verification upon purchase of nicotine products. Swedish Match cooperates with retailers in order to reduce the growing volume of illicit products which raise risks of unregulated quality and distort competition on the market.
Regulatory developments in the US
In 2017, the US FDA announced a new comprehensive regulatory plan for tobacco. In the announcement, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb acknowledged that there is a difference in risk profile for different tobacco and nicotine containing products. He envisioned a world where cigarettes lose their addictive potential through reduced nicotine levels and where less harmful products, efficiently delivering satisfying levels of nicotine, are available to those adults who need or want them. The FDA announcement was an important step forward for scientifically based regulation of tobacco and nicotine products but there has been little tangible progress on these matters during 2018. Instead, FDA has focused on the alleged role that flavors in e-cigarettes and tobacco products may play in attracting youth.
Regulatory developments in Europe
Tobacco products for oral use, except those intended to be smoked or chewed, have been banned in the EU since 1992. As Swedish snus is neither smoked nor chewed, it is prohibited for sale. Upon Sweden’s entry into the EU in 1995, the country was granted a permanent exemption from the sales ban on snus. Cigarettes and other types of traditional smokeless tobacco products (including certain Asian/African varieties, chewing tobacco and nasal snuff) can all be legally sold within the EU. The EU ban on sale of snus has been the subject of a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2018. In its judgement the court states that EU legislature has a broad discretion within the area at issue and that this implies that judicial review is limited. These limitations apply both to measures decided by the EU legislature and to the basic facts on which these measures have been based. Based on such limited review the court decided not to remove the ban. During the year, the ECJ has also ruled on the definition of chewing tobacco following a request from a German court. The German court will now decide on if a particular chewing tobacco product fall within the scope of allowed chewing tobacco.
In March 2018, the Swedish Government submitted a proposal to the Parliament for new legislation on tobacco and similar products. Proposed measures included the EU mandated track and trace system for tobacco products, an outdoor smoking ban in certain public places and restaurants, a ban on consumer self-service for all tobacco products at point of sale, a ban on tobacco advertising at point of sale other than in specialty tobacco shops and, for snus, a minimum of 20 pouches per can. The Parliament adopted the proposal in December 2018 but with important amendments. The ban on consumer self-service and advertising at point of sale was rejected as it did not reflect the difference in health effects between snus and cigarettes.
In Norway, plain packaging regulation for snus came into force on July 1, 2017 and all products were required to be in plain packaging in the trade from July 1, 2018.
In Switzerland, the Government has made a proposal to the Parliament to lift the Swiss ban on snus. The final decision by Parliament and implementation are expected to take several years.
Swedish Match's opinion on various regulations:
- Regulation must take into account the relative risk among different tobacco products.
- The EU ban on Swedish snus is discriminatory, disproportionate, violates the free trade and subsidiarity principles and distorts the function of the internal market. It deprives the EU consumers of access to a dramatically safer alternative to cigarettes.
- The EU Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) violates the fundamental consumer right to be informed of content and product taste by banning product information disclosure on packages.
- All smokeless tobacco products should be subject to consistent and competition neutral product regulation based on product quality and consumer protection (i.e. similar to food standards).