Auteur: | By Lisbeth Kirk
The Swedish smokeless tobacco 'Snus' should not be allowed on to the EU market, according to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
ECJ Advocate General Leendert Geelhoed said yesterday (7 September) in a recommendation that the 12-year-old ban on oral snuff should remain in place until a new EU law is passed.
This opinion comes as a blow to the Stockholm-based Swedish Match Company, which holds 90 percent of the snus market in Sweden and Norway. The dominant snus manufacturer had hoped to boost sales of this smokeless tobacco as bans on smoking have been introduced in several countries.
Snus makers have already seen sales soar in Norway since the ban on smoking in public places was introduced in June. Ireland has also banned smoking in public places, and other EU member states are expected to follow.
The European Commission pointed to a risk of cancer when it introduced the EU wide ban on selling the product in 1992. The prohibition was also intended to stop young people from starting the nicotine habit.
Swedish experts claim snus is a safer alternative to cigarettes, which are not banned.
The Swedish Match said it would continue to fight the ban, in force in all EU countries except in Sweden, which won an exception when joining the EU in 1995.
Swedish snus has a 150-year tradition in Sweden. It is a moist tobacco product, which is placed behind the upper lip.
In Sweden, total consumption was 6200 tons in the year 2000. Approximately one million people in Sweden use snus - 90% are men and 10% are women.
"We should remember that this is only a recommendation to the European Court of Justice, and we believe that this recommendation fails to properly take into account several of the issues which in our opinion fully justifies a total removal of the ban", commented Sven Hindrikes, CEO of Swedish Match.
The EU Court will form its final verdict later this year or early in 2005.