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Media release at 4.15pm today


The High Court has just announced that it will allow the ban on the smoking substitute snus to be referred to the European Court of Justice.

Professor Gerry Stimson, who is leading the legal challenge to the ban by the consumer group, the New Nicotine Alliance, said:

There’s now a race to see whether European judges or British politicians will lift the ban first. They realise that with British men smoking four times as much as Swedish men we cannot justify continuing the ban on snus. If the European Court doesn’t do it first, I hope that when Brexit happens the bonfire of regulations will begin with this stupid ban on the world’s most successful safer alternative to smoking.

Daily Express 26 January 2017 http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/758965/European-Union-high-court-smoking-snus-Sweden-health 

 

Notes

Snus is pasteurised tobacco product which is placed in a sachet under the lip
The European Union maintains a blanket ban outside Sweden which negotiated an exemption when it joined the EU.
The US Food & Drug Administration authorised snus in November 2015 http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm472026.htm
The New Nicotine Alliance has been intervening in the legal action bought by the manufacturer, Swedish Match
How Snus Got Banned

Snus got banned in Europe because of pressure from the then UK public health minister, Edwina Currie. She was fearful about Skoal Bandits.
The pharmaceutical industry has argued for the ban on snus to continue as it competes with their nicotine gum and patches.
In 2012 the EU Health Commissioner John Dalli was forced to resign following allegations that one of his associates had approached snus maker Swedish Match asking for a bribe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalli
EU officials have argued that oral tobacco can be a problem - but in doing this they have confused evidence about chewed South Asian tobacco (e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19718643 ) with snus which is a pasteurised product created to very tight standards (https://www.swedishmatch.com/Snus-and-health/GOTHIATEK/GOTHIATEK-standard/)

Safety

Is snus much safer than smoking? The answer from key health organisations is emphatically yes.

US Food and Drug Administration: it chose in 2015 to make snus the first nicotine product it authorised because the science is extremely compelling: FDA authorisation
Royal College of Physicians: says that snus “demonstrates proof of the concept” for tobacco harm reduction: “Nicotine Without Smoke” RCP 2016
World Health Organisation: says that snus is “considerably less hazardous than cigarettes”: page 273 WHO Tob. Reg. Report 951
EU Commission: says that “It is undeniable that for an individual substitution of tobacco smoking by the use of moist snuff [snus] would decrease the incidence of tobacco related diseases.”: SCENIHR (2008)
This heavyweight analysis is not just from lab tests, but decades of epidemiology which show that on the key smoking diseases including lung and oral cancer, Sweden is doing far better than other countries.
In a letter to The Times Professors Farsalinos, Le Houezec, Polosa and Ramström wrote that not only did Sweden have by far the lowest rates of lung cancer and heart disease in Europe but that "younger Swedish men, who have the highest use of snus, have the lowest levels of oral, oesophageal and pancreatic cancer.” (18% of Swedish men use snus, but only 4% of women.)
If Sweden’s success was repeated in the UK our male lung cancer mortality would be 54% lower: Scandinavian Journal Of Public Health, 2009 .


Effectiveness

UK ONS data shows around a quarter of men still smoke: see figure 1: 16-24 years 25%; 25-34 years 26%; 35-49 years 22%.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2014#smoking-data  (need to c+p into the browser window)
UK Parliamentary answer shows 24% of young men are regular smokers:https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2016-12-06/HL3876/
Swedish data shows far lower male smoking rates:16-29 years 8%, 30-44 years 5% and 45-64 9%. Swedish government data: (daily smoking is under “roker daglinen” tab) https://www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se/documents/statistik-uppfoljning/enkater-undersokningar/nationella-folkhalsoenkaten/2016/Tobaksvanor-nationella-resultat-tidsserier-2016.xls

 

Media release at midnight, before the hearing:

Nicotine campaigners take government to High Court over “disastrous ban”

UK is “failing very badly” at reducing smoking compared with Sweden

A consumer group that aims to ensure smokers have safer alternatives to cigarettes is today challenging the government in the High Court in a bid to lift a European Union ban on the oral tobacco product snus. The New Nicotine Alliance led by Professor Gerry Stimson of Imperial College London wants snus - which is used by a fifth of all men in Sweden - to be legalised.

Sweden has by far the lowest rate of smoking in the developed world. Government figures show that just 5% of its men aged 30 to 44 years old are regular smokers compared with 22% in the UK. Scientists conclude that the widespread use of snus as an alternative to smoking is the reason that diseases including lung and mouth cancer are far lower in Sweden.

“The UK is failing very badly compared with Sweden at bringing down smoking rates. It is a tragedy that we have four times as many men in their thirties smoking than in Sweden and disastrous that we are banning the most successful alternative to the biggest cause of preventable death,” said Professor Stimson.

The professor will be telling the High Court of research which shows that male lung cancer rates in the UK could more than halve if it had similar levels of snus use to Sweden. He is particularly angered that some Swedish and Norwegian users have started smoking when they move to the UK because they can’t get their snus here.

“Everyone was taken by surprise by the way millions of smokers flocked to e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. Yet nine million people in the UK continue to smoke and proven alternatives like snus should be available to help those who want to quit. Smokers should have the widest choice of reduced risk products so that they can find the one that works for them” said Professor Stimson.

In parallel with today’s legal attempts to overturn the ban, a group of 22 Conservative MPs has written to the Health Secretary urging him to include snus in his forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan which will cover Britain’s smoking policy after Brexit.

 

Notes

Snus is pasteurised tobacco product which is placed in a sachet under the lip. For more information see ‘Snus facts’ at http://nnalliance.org/blog/162-snus-facts
The European Union maintains a blanket ban outside Sweden which negotiated an exemption when it joined the EU.
The US Food & Drug Administration authorised snus in November 2015 http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm472026.htm
The New Nicotine Alliance is seeking to intervene in the legal action which has been bought by the manufacturer, Swedish Match
UK ONS data shows around a quarter of men still smoke: see figure 1: 16-24 years 25%; 25-34 years 26%; 35-49 years 22%. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2014
UK Parliamentary answer shows 24% of young men are current smokers: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2016-12-06/HL3876/
Swedish data shows far lower male smoking rates:16-29 years 8%, 30-44 years 5% and 45-64 9%. Swedish government data: (daily smoking is under “roker daglinen” tab) https://www. folkhalsomyndigheten.se/ documents/statistik- uppfoljning/enkater- undersokningar/nationella- folkhalsoenkaten/2016/ Tobaksvanor-nationella- resultat-tidsserier-2016.xls (need to c+p into the browser)
18% of all Swedish men use snus daily. Swedish government data: (see “snusar daglinen” tab on spreadsheet) https://www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se/documents/statistik-u
The Royal College of Physicians describes snus as “proof of concept for harm reduction.” See page 31 https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/fifty-years-smoking-and-health
“It is undeniable that for an individual substitution of tobacco smoking by the use of moist snuff [snus] would decrease the incidence of tobacco related diseases.” EU Commission, SCENIHR (2008)
World Health Organisation has said it is “considerably less hazardous than cigarettes” WHO Tob. Reg. Report 951, Scientific Basis of Tobacco Product Regulation, 2008
The University of Michigan’s Dean of Public Health stated that “everyone who has studied this agrees there is a 95%–99% reduction in the health risk of snus, compared to use of cigarettes.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2010 https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/102/19/1454/2516186/Snus-Use-in-the-U-S-Reducing-Harm-or-Creating-It?searchresult=1
“Nicotine itself is not especially hazardous, and if nicotine could be provided in a form that is acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved.” Royal College of Physicians, Harm Reduction in Nicotine Addiction: Helping People Who Can’t Quit (2007)

 

Testimony to the Norwegian Parliament on the relative risk of snus from Professor Anders Milton, ex President of the World Medical Association.

 More from the NNA on snus:

Leading experts implore the Swedish government to back snus at COP7

Snus facts

NNA goes to the High Court to challenge the ban on snus

Update on the challenge to the ban on snus – next step, the European Court of Justice

NNA snus ban challenge - update May 2017

NNA snus ban challenge - the legal case

Snus and the right to health