Social Affairs Committee stops government plans for e-cigarettes

The Social Affairs Committee halted the government's plans to discourage tobacco-free nicotine products. The committee is now calling for a government inquiry to clarify the differences in harmful effects between cigarettes, e-cigarettes and snus.

The government's strategy for ANDTS was due to be voted on next week, following a debate in parliament. The strategy would be the framework for policy and funding for various organisations working on prevention issues related to alcohol, drugs, doping, tobacco and gambling. The strategy would be valid for five years, from 2021 to 2025.

Want to investigate e-cigs and snus

The new ANDTS strategy differs from the previous framework by also including measures against gambling and the use of smokeless nicotine products (such as e-cigarettes and snus). At the same time, the government wants all nicotine products, except medicines, to be considered equally harmful to health. This is regardless of whether they are snus, nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes. It is this, among other things, that has aroused strong opposition among parliamentary parties. 

"The committee believes that the National Board of Health and Welfare should be given the task of clarifying the differences in degree of the harmful effects of ANDT products that have been scientifically demonstrated - among other things to provide a basis for legislation in the area. This could, for example, apply to differences in degree in various nicotine and tobacco products such as snus and cigarettes." says the committee in its statement.

Need to change strategy

The Social Affairs Committee is the Parliament's preparatory body and its opinion carries weight. The government will probably have to back down on several points if the strategy is to be realised. But it remains to be seen whether the government will back down on the point of including snus and e-cigarettes in the same category as cigarettes. The Moderates, Christian Democrats and Centre Party want to set up an investigation to clarify the risks of harm between the products in question. Four parties - the Social Democrats, the Liberals, the Green Party and the Left - have entered a reservation against this part of the proposal. 

Reducing the risks of nicotine addiction

Both snus and e-cigarettes are considerably less harmful than cigarettes, according to several scientific assessments, including the UK Department of Health. Moreover, these products are often used by smokers to quit smoking. Since it is the combustion of tobacco that produces a majority of the harmful substances in cigarette smoke, smokers can radically reduce the risks associated with their nicotine use by switching to smokeless alternatives, according to the report. Public Health England.

'Health benefits if smokers switch to smoke-free alternatives'

Compared to other EU countries, Sweden has a low proportion of deaths due to smoking. This applies in particular to men, a group where the proportion of smokers has fallen sharply in recent years, but where around 20 per cent use snus. For women in the same age group, where smoking is more common than snus, more people die from smoking-related diseasesr. Actively discouraging products such as snus and e-cigarettes would have public health implications, according to Johan Hultberg, Member of the Social Committee for the Moderates.

"We have radically lower smoking rates in Sweden compared to other EU countries. This is directly linked to snus. There is a group that still smokes and it is a smaller step for them to switch to e-cigarettes than to snus. So there is clearly a potential health benefit from people quitting tobacco and switching to other alternatives," said Mr Van Rompuy. Johan Hultberg (m) to Vejpkollen earlier this spring.

"The government's proposal is too bad"

Both Johan Hultberg (M) and Pia Steensland (Kd) note that the government has been severely criticised for its handling of these issues. And that Sweden now lacks clear goals to reduce harmful addictions in the country.

"The government's proposal is simply too bad and we cannot accept it. Passing a bad strategy just to get a strategy would be a betrayal of all children who are harmed and grow up in addiction. Or all the other people who are harmed by their own or other addictions", says Pia Steensland (kd). Svenska Dagbladet.

Unclear on flavour ban for e-cigs

While the government's ANDTS strategy appears to be failing in parliament, the government's proposal to banning flavourings in e-liquid out for consultation. The deadline for submitting responses is 1 September. It is currently unclear whether a change in the ANDTS strategy will affect a possible flavour ban on e-cigarettes.
The ANDTS strategy will be debated in Parliament on 14 June.

Sources for this article:

Social Affairs Committee proposes no to the government's ANDTS strategy

Government's drug strategy halted

More in Vejpkollen:

Government wants to ban flavours in e-liquids

The vision that can save lives - dies with the flavour ban

"There is no need to flavour with enticing flavours"

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