Users' voices are often missing from the debate on nicotine and harm reduction.
Why is this the case?
This is the question posed by the magazine Offentliga affärer, the Swedish Snus Association and the magazine Vejpkollen. They are now jointly organising a discussion on the user perspective on nicotine, during the political week in Almedalen.
Fewer people are smoking cigarettes in Sweden and only 5.6 per cent are now so-called 'daily smokers'. At the same time, the use of white snus and e-cigarettes. Opinions differ on whether this is a good or bad thing.
Proponents of so-called harm minimisation argue that access to the products are crucial tools that have helped reduce smoking and should therefore be regulated more lightly than cigarettes.
The opponents, mainly from the political left and organisations advocating far-reaching bans combined with nicotine medicines to reduce smoking - argues that harm minimisation only benefits the tobacco industry.
Users made invisible
- How politicians deal with this issue is crucial for the consumption of nicotine in Sweden. It is a matter of choice. Nobody thinks that nicotine use is good by definition, but it is also a popular drug that almost two million Swedes use daily. The problem is that 500 000 Swedes still choose to smoke to get the nicotine and that those who use snus and e-cigarettes instead have long been invisible in the debate." says Stefan Mathisson, journalist and editor-in-chief of Vejpkollen, which, together with the National Snus Association wants to highlight users' views on nicotine in Sweden.
'Harm minimisation in nicotine policy'
Samuel Lundell is president of the relatively new consumer organisation National Snus Association.
- "We are a consumer organisation for snus users and we push the issues that our members think are important. These include the abolition of the snus tax and the removal of the export ban within the EU, but also that 'harm minimisation' should be the principle of Swedish nicotine policy," says Samuel Lundell.
The fact that users themselves are never given a voice when new laws and regulations on nicotine are discussed is deeply problematic, says Samuel Lundell.
- Politicians are supposed to represent the people and should reasonably listen more to users in these matters. Nicotine consumers are rarely or never given a voice, and we want to change that with this discussion in Almedalen," says Samuel Lundell.
Going against the party line
Samuel Lundell is also an active social democratic politician in his home town of Götene. His own views on the issue of nicotine do not align with the party line. On the contrary, S has gone hard at work on damage minimisation and, among other things, wanted to ban virtually all flavourings in e-liquid, as recently as last year.
- But that's kind of the great thing about (s). There are so many different people in the party and we can have just as many different opinions. At the municipal level in Götene, the party is almost entirely in favour of snus," says Samuel Lundell.
Politicians and doctors participate
In addition to Samuel Lundell and Stefan Mathisson the participants include Stefan Willers, senior physician and associate professor at Lund University Hospital, Moderate Member of Parliament Jesper Skalberg Karlsson in the panel discussion. The other names are Bengt Hedlund, CEO of Convenience Stores Sweden and Stig-Björn Ljunggren, political editor-in-chief of Sydöstran. The moderator is Staffan Kuylenstierna on The Labyrinth Public Affairs.
- "It will probably be more of a discussion than a debate, as I don't think there will be any major disagreements," says Samuel Lindell.
'Exciting that snus users are taking the lead'
Stefan Mathisson, editor-in-chief of Vejpkollen, also hopes for a fruitful dialogue that will bring out the users' perspective.
- We know that the issue affects a lot of people in Sweden. Weapers have traditionally been the group most politically engaged in the issue of harm minimisation. However, we are a small group compared to snus users here in the Nordic countries. It is very exciting that snus users are also taking part in the debate," says Stefan Mathisson.
Follow the event online from Almedalen:
"The ambition of a smoke-free country - why are the voices of nicotine users missing from the debate?"
Time and place: Thursday 29 June, 9.00 am, Strandvägen, H520, "Offentliga Affärers tomt" in Almedalen.
Link: If a smoke-free country...
The seminar will present how nicotine affects the body. Nicotine users who currently use e-cigarettes and white snus will meet with members of parliament and editorial writers to discuss nicotine use in Sweden and why the voice of nicotine users is never heard in the debate.
Stefan Willers, Senior Physician, Associate Professor, Skåne University Hospital Lund
Samuel Lundell, President, Swedish Snus Association
Stefan Mathisson, Editor-in-Chief, Vejpkollen
Bengt Hedlund, CEO, Convenience Stores Sweden
Jesper Skalberg Karlsson, Member of Parliament, M
Stig-Björn Ljunggren, Chief Political Editor, Sydöstran.
Staffan Kuylenstierna, Moderator and Senior Consultant, The Labyrinth Public Affairs.
Live broadcast: "The ambition of a smoke-free country - why are the voices of nicotine users missing from the debate?"