Saturday, December 3, 2011

EU accused of hiding support for snus

Dagens Nyheter
30 November 2011 

[Translation from original] Sweden´s hopes of lifting the export ban on snus appeared to be crushed in the summer. The European Commission announced that most member countries are saying a firm no. But DN's review shows that there is in fact strong support for making snus freely available on the market.

A majority of Member States support prohibiting all forms of oral tobacco, including snus, the European Commission categorically announced in a press release in July. The basis for the statement came from a "public consultation" on tobacco laws. There were a total 85,000 responses to questions surrounding snus, tobacco advertising and the look of cigarette packages.

EU Health Commissioner, John Dalli, shortly thereafter made it clear to ministers Göran Hägglund and Maria Larsson, that the Commission had already decided to continue its export ban on snus.

But all the responses to this major survey were only published in the autumn, and a review of these gives a very different result.

Of the citizens who submitted their opinions, more than eight out of ten, 84 percent, support lifting the export ban on snus. 86 percent of government representatives and 74 percent of industry representatives wish to lift the ban. Only among lobbyists and NGOs is there a slim majority, 56 percent, who want to keep the ban on snus.

The EU Commission, however, dismisses a significant portion of the responses from the 82,000 citizens on the grounds that two-thirds are from Italy and Poland, where tobacco merchants organised petitions.

But even if we exclude these two countries, the majority is still for lifting the export ban on snus, 10-6, when respondents are broken down by country.

Commissioner Dalli's spokesperson, Frederic Vincent, defends the Commission's contrary statement, saying that it only took account of the government representatives who responded:

“The report is based on a qualitative analysis based on responses from Member States, i.e. governments and ministries.”

DN's review of the 400 responses in this group shows that even among the responses from parliamentarians, municipalities, government agencies and ministries a large majority, 71 percent, support lifting the export ban. Even when only EU governments and ministries are included, there is still no majority against snus, but rather 3-3.

The European Commission's health directorate claims to have received responses from governments who in other ways support the ban on snus, but refuses to show them.

Snus manufacturer Swedish Match, who brought this contradictory data to the attention of DN, is accusing the European Commission of trying to sweep the snus issue under the rug.

“These are very strange conclusions that the Commission's health directorate has drawn from the results, which instead clearly shows strong support for lifting the ban,” said Public Affairs Director Patrick Hildingsson.

In Sweden all the parliamentary parties are in support of lifting the export ban on snus, and Minister for Trade, Ewa Björling (M), has raised the issue as a breach of EU internal market rules. But the EU ban on snus has been introduced for health reasons, and it is therefore Minister of Children and the Elderly, Maria Larsson (KD), that will present Sweden's case in the forthcoming negotiations on tobacco legislation.

But Maria Larsson's political advisor Ulrik Lindgren says that the matter is low on the minister`s agenda thus far:

“We are not working actively on this issue,” he says.

[Read Original Article]

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