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 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 principles of food regulation.
Truly effective regulation must be evidence based, and requires an exchange of knowledge and experience between governments and industry. The Company believes that better regulation is achieved by maintaining focus on those who are directly affected by the regulation – consumers, customers/retailers and manufacturers. This is why Swedish Match is monitoring 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) 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 are currently challenging 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 distort competition on the market.
Regulatory developments in the US
On July 28, 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 where less harmful products, efficiently delivering satisfying levels of nicotine, are available to those adults who need or want them. The FDA announcement is an important step forward for scientifically based regulation of tobacco and nicotine products.
As part of the July announcement, the FDA also extended deadlines for substantial equivalence reports and premarket applications (PMTA) under the deeming regulation. For combustible products (including cigars) the deadlines were extended to August 8, 2021 and for non-combustible products (including products such as ZYN) the deadlines were extended to August 8, 2022. The FDA also announced that it would seek public comment on the role that flavors in tobacco products play in attracting youth, as well as the role they may play in helping smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine delivery.
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. In 2016, Swedish Match initiated legal proceedings in the UK in order to challenge the EU ban on snus. Swedish Match is of the opinion that the snus ban is both discriminatory and disproportionate. The British High Court decided to refer the case to the European Court of Justice for preliminary ruling and the case was heard on January 25, 2018. The judgement is expected during the second half of 2018.
In early 2018, the Swedish Government announced its intent to propose to the Parliament a new legislation on tobacco and similar products. The proposed legislation is scheduled to take effect from January 1, 2019 and contains a number of proposed measures including a ban on smoking in various outdoor public places (including outdoor 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 a minimum of 20 snus pouches per can. The announced proposal also includes implementation of the EU mandated track and trace system for tobacco products. The Government has also considered a number of further legislative measures proposed in a 2016 Official Report on tobacco legislation such as a ban on exposing tobacco products at retail and a ban on flavor designations on snus cans but has decided not to include these measures in its proposal to Parliament.
In Norway, plain packaging regulation for snus came into force on July 1, 2017. New snus products launched after this date have to be in plain packaging. Products on the market prior to July 1, 2017, are required to be in plain packaging in the trade from July 1, 2018. Swedish Match challenged the regulation as it is discriminatory and not based on a proper scientific review of the health effects of snus. Swedish Match failed to get a preliminary injunction against the legislation.
In Switzerland the Government has made public a proposal to lift the Swiss ban on snus. The proposal has been sent out for consultation. A final proposal to the Swiss Parliament is expected towards the end of 2018 with the final decision by Parliament and implementation expected to take a number of 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.
- 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.