Folklistan: "EU Parliament elections will decide the fate of white snus"

The elections to the European Parliament will be a fateful election for white snus. That's the view of Johan Nissinen, a former Sweden Democrat who is now running for the European Parliament via the People's List. 
"After the election, the Tobacco Products Directive will be amended. There is then an imminent risk that the rest of the EU will follow the example of Belgium or the Netherlands, which means that we will not be able to freely buy and use nicotine pouches here in Sweden," says Johan Nissinen to Vejpkkollen.

There is no doubt that the issue of white snus is of concern to Swedish politicians. In Sweden, it has mostly been about rules and restrictions on the popular nicotine product.

But at EU level, it's about something much bigger: whether the product can be on the market at all. Because unlike Swedish snus, which can only be sold in Sweden, the equally Swedish products, the nicotine portions, can now be sold everywhere. This has certainly led to more and more Europeans using nicotine in the same way as Swedes have done for decades - via a pouch under the lip. Some instead of smoking, others because they like it. At the same time, politicians have started to look at legislation to restrict the relatively low level of use.

Tough battle ahead

For Johan Nissinen (former sd and now Folklistan), which for several years tried to get nicotine pouches but also snus, To gain market acceptance as a tool to reduce smoking, the battle for the future of nicotine pouches is likely to be tough in the EU.

"There is already a very ingrained view of snus in the EU. The attitude is that snus is really dangerous, actually. Worse than cigarettes according to many. How this has come about is hard to speculate on, but it is a fact. The risk is that the view of snus spills over into the view of nicotine pouches"

"Least smoked in the EU"

Johan Nissinen, for his part, believes that the popularity of snus and nicotine pouches in Sweden has contributed greatly to the fact that few Swedes smoke cigarettes today. 

"We actually have the lowest percentage of smokers in the whole of the EU. There may be many opinions on this, but I think most people realise that the oral use of nicotine plays a major role. And when so many people use a product like this, a ban would be absolutely disastrous for many Swedish citizens," says Johan Nissinen.

"White snus is in trouble"

So how likely is it that Parliament will vote in favour of a proposal to ban white snus? According to Mr Nissinen, the chances are quite high. 

"Considering the perception of snus in general and how other smokeless nicotine products like e-cigarettes have fared in other countries, I'm actually afraid that white snus is in a really bad way." he tells Vejpkollen.

Use among young people is increasing

As in Sweden and almost all other countries, the use of nicotine pouches among young people and children is driving policy in the EU. Uptake of the small discreet pouches is increasing among younger people and the debate is similar to the one that has been going on about e-cigarettes for almost two decades.

"And it's clear that this is seen as a problem for many," says Mr Nissinen. "In Sweden, we on the right have fought to strengthen age controls, tackle drug dealing and limit the nicotine content of products. Precisely to get at youth consumption. But the trend in other countries is to just ban them outright. If politicians know nothing about the products except that they are "a kind of snus", such a proposal can easily be voted through in Parliament."

Similar to the attacks on snus

According to Johan Nissinen, a possible ban will also affect the conditions for traditional snus. Sweden has had an exemption to sell the culturally distinctive tobacco product since its entry in 1995. But attacks on the product have only increased as white snus has become more popular.

"The question is whether Sweden can withstand a full attack on the Swedish exception today? I'm not so sure about that actually." says Johan Nissinen.

Becoming an election issue in Sweden

Both Moderates and Sweden Democrats has made white snus an election issue. And also The Social Democrats Not surprisingly, nicotine pouches are also on Folklistan's list of core issues. As number 7.

Why would a vote for the People's List be better than a vote for (m) or (sd)?

"Precisely because two of Folklistan's top candidates have been the ones who have pushed this issue hardest in Parliament in recent years. It has been Sara Skytterdal and I who have invited Swedish researchers down to the Parliament, organised seminars and campaigns both on site and in social media. We have established ourselves in this battle, I would say, and have built up a large network of contacts."

How would you address the risks of young non-smokers becoming addicted to nicotine pouches?

"I've spoken to a lot of people about this, including doctors and school staff. The problem is that 13-14 year olds are getting these products, even though they're not supposed to. So we need to cut off access there. I also think we should look at the possibility of introducing nicotine-free school hours, and thus get to grips with use in schools. These are some proposals that I think should be on the agenda"

And what is the state of knowledge about nicotine pouches in the EU Parliament today, in your opinion?

"Generally quite bad. Unfortunately, this has become a right-left issue, which is a real shame. It should be about public health and evidence. I usually educate parliamentarians by telling them about the origin of the nicotine pouch. Because unlike traditional snus, the nicotine pouch is actually a pharmaceutical product. Not many people know that. White snus is also sold in pharmacies."

What happens to the Tobacco Products Directive - TPD

The European Parliament is likely to have its say on the revised Tobacco Products Directive during the next legislature. It is a fact that nicotine pouches will be included in the revised framework. The question is how comprehensive the framework will be. According to leaked information from the process, it could range from flavour restrictions to a total ban. But Johan Nissinen hopes that enough people in Parliament can take a stand with the concept of harm minimisation in mind.

"The goal is for a majority to realise that e-cigs and nicotine pouches are much better alternatives than cigarettes, especially as smoking rates are very high in some countries. More and more people in the conservative bloc are starting to realise that harm reduction is an issue in the tobacco sector. There are also some in the socialist bloc who have started to take an interest in it, although not as strongly. So things are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly. But we need to work, work and work some more to get the knowledge to sink in. And we who are running for the People's List have been doing that for many years now," says Johan Nissinen.

Ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections

Vejpkollen will be continuously monitoring the road to the upcoming EU parliamentary elections on 6-9 June 2024. Of course, the monitoring will be done from the perspective of the a user perspective and focuses on issues of nicotine and harm reduction for smokers. Do you have tips on politicians or organisations you want us to take the pulse of? Do not hesitate to contact the editorial team!

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