The EC is insistent on ignoring the strategies used by the first country which has actually already the smokefree goal it is aiming for.
Last January, Skyttedal formally submitted parliamentary questions concerning snus to the European Commissioner (EC) for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides. The questions came ahead of the February release of the EU’s Beating Cancer Plan, which many experts have argued is leaving out very crucial harm reduction strategies, such as the incorporation of safer tobacco alternatives.
“The fact that the Commission nevertheless persists in the view that snus causes cancer is both surprising and, to be honest, quite remarkable,” said Skyttedal as quoted by Snusforumet, at the time. Snus is a moist powder tobacco product that is placed under the upper lip for extended periods. It is mostly popular in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, where it is legal and considered an effective harm reduction product.
Sweden’s unparalleled success achieved via snus
In fact, as the MEP rightly highlighted, snus has not only led to Sweden boasting the lowest smoking rates in Europe, but also to reducing Sweden’s tobacco-related deaths by half the EU average, despite leaving the overall tobacco usage on par with the EU average. “If the Tobacco Products Directive is to be revised to take account of the fight against cancer, does the Commission share the view that the EU needs to change its regulation of snus?” Skyttedal asked Commissioner Kyriakides.
In response to the MEP’s arguments, sadly the Commissioner Kyriakides said that the EC’s stance remains unchanged as snus and other oral tobacco products have been linked to cancer and other adverse health effects. “It is undisputed that tobacco for oral use is addictive and has adverse health effects, including cancers.” Kyriakides went on to cite a 2008 report from the EU’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risk which she says “confirmed the negative health effects of snus”.
The Commissioner’s response prompted a strong reaction from Skyttedal, who pointed out that actually most studies related to snus found little or no links to cancer, and went on to cite the Lancet’s Global Burden of Diseases as well as a 2020 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, both of which conclude there is no evidence to suggest a link between snus and cancer.
The flaws with the EU’s beating cancer plan
Meanwhile, work on the EU’s plan for beating cancer remains ongoing ahead of a European Parliament vote on amendments planned for December 6th. Ironically, one of the plan’s main objectives is to “ensure that less than 5% of the population uses tobacco by 2040.” Yet, the EC is insistent on ignoring the strategies used by the first country which has actually already achieved this goal.
“For months, the European Commission has avoided the fundamental question. Namely, addressing the inherent contradiction between their goals for fighting cancer and their view of snus in particular, and their ambiguity toward harm reduction in general,” said Sara Skyttedal in the most recent interview with Snusforumet.
“I’ve done what I can to continually point out the obvious in meetings with other decision-makers in different parts of the EU system: If you are serious about doing something about tobacco-related mortality, it’s simply impossible to ignore snus, given what we know about the statistics on tobacco and cancer.”
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