Debate: "Government must explain itself to Sweden's 1.4 million snus users ahead of WHO meeting"

DEBATE: EU hides its position on snus and white snus ahead of WHO COP10 conference in Panama.. But what do our parliamentary politicians actually do? That's what Bengt Wiberg, innovator and founder of the consumer network #EUforSnus, wants to know.

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Snus, white snus (nicotine pouches) and e-cigs are now under threat from both the WHO and the EU. The Moderate Party has always defended snus as a way to reduce tobacco-related harm. SD, the Liberals, KD and the Centre Party seem to agree. We thus have a clear party majority in the Riksdag for tobacco harm minimisation. It is mainly thanks to snus and nicotine pouches that we have by far the lowest proportion of daily smokers (5.6% according to the Swedish Public Health Agency) and by far the lowest proportion of tobacco-related diseases in the EU. As snus use in Sweden has increased, smoking has decreased. More than 1 million Swedes have chosen snus over deadly cigarettes.

COP10 (WHO) meets in Panama - Sweden has the chance to make a difference

WHO member countries that have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will soon meet in Panama from 5 to 10 February to discuss tobacco issues. Has the government ensured that the Swedish delegation stands up for tobacco harm reduction and explained that snus and tobacco-free nicotine products such as white snus and vejping are an important key to why Sweden has basically stopped smoking?

Total EU blackout - Does the government know what the EU position is?

Sweden's chief delegate is Paula Ericson from the Ministry of Social Affairs. A journalist friend who dug into the matter only found out that "Sweden intends to follow the EU line". But what exactly is the EU line? When the journalist asked to see the EU's position on less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, the document was almost completely blacked out, i.e. classified! It is unacceptable for the EU to keep secret such information that affects about 130 million nicotine users in the EU, of which almost 100 million unfortunately still smoke. Those who have quit smoking have mostly used e-cigs, snus, nicotine pouches, heated tobacco or nicotine replacement products. If the government is aware of the EU's position paper, and if this does not follow the Swedish line on harm minimisation, then the government has to explain itself to Sweden's 1.4 million snus users and also those who use snus or want to quit smoking in the rest of Europe.

Prohibitionists make our health worse

It is also scandalous that the COP10 meeting is closed to journalists, researchers, industry and civil society. They are the ones who can best highlight the consequences of the meeting's decisions. If the COP10 meeting decides to recommend a ban on white snus (nicotine pouches) or flavours other than "tobacco flavour" in less harmful products such as snus, white snuff and e-cigarettes, it could have disastrous consequences for the approximately 140 million people in the world who have quit smoking for good with the help of such products. The 1 billion people who still smoke daily around the world risk being left without less harmful alternatives to smoking if prohibitionists push their agenda.

What can the government, supported by SD, do?

The government, with the support of sniffing Jimmy Åkesson's SD, can easily set the level of the COP10 decision as a consensus with all member states must be reached in the meeting's decision just like at the completely open COP28 climate meeting in Dubai recently. If the government hands over this huge responsibility in advance to some Swedish officials, the Swedish smoke-free traditions may soon be history. If Swedish snus had been invented in Hungary instead of Sweden, the "veteran veto country" Hungary would long ago have used its veto power on the issue and snus and white snus would then be legal throughout the EU. Now, therefore, the Swedish government, with the support of the parties that stand up for snus and harm minimisation, must show the world where it stands on this vital issue once and for all.
But they must do it NOW before it is too late.

Bengt Wiberg
The debater is the founder of the consumer organisation EUforsnus with thousands of members from almost 100 countries. Around 85% of its members have managed to quit smoking thanks to snus and/or white snus.
Bengt is also the founder of the innovation company Stingfree AB in Lidingö.

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