How can the European Union continue to deny Sweden’s success in tobacco harm reduction? I have documented how Swedish snus has contributed to that country’s world record low rates of smoking (here and here) and smoking-related deaths – rates that would translate into hundreds of thousands of lives saved if snus were not banned in the rest of Europe (here and here). The EU’s European Commission persists in ignoring this American researcher and a growing number of international tobacco research and policy experts (here). Perhaps a new report by Eurobarometer, the EU’s official survey organization, will force a policy change.
The 200+ page report (available here) analyzes tobacco prevalence and consumption, including cigarettes, snus and e-cigarettes, across all EU countries. Its findings substantiate the dire consequences of the EU’s misguided ban on snus.
The following table of reported key smoking indicators clearly demonstrates the effect of the Swedish snus experience. Sweden has the lowest smoking prevalence, at 11% -- less than half the 26% prevalence throughout the EU and eight points lower than second-place Finland. Sweden also leads the EU in prevalence of former smoking, at 35%. It is the only country in the EU with cigarette consumption among smokers of less than 10 per day. The reason is obvious: half of Swedes have “ever tried…oral tobacco (snus), chewing or nasal tobacco.”
Intriguing numbers are also supplied from Finland. That nation has the second lowest smoking rate (19%) and the second highest ever use of smokeless tobacco (14%). It is widely known that snus use remains popular in Finland. In fact, snus importation increased last year (here), even though the product has been officially prohibited in Finland since it joined the EU in 1995. Research shows that Finnish smoking rates would have declined even more if snus sales had not been banned (here).
Some suggest that snus would have no appeal outside of Sweden, but the product is clearly popular in Finland and in Denmark. Last year, the EU sued Denmark for permitting snus sales (here). Also popular among Danes is a chewing tobacco product, Oliver Twist, another effective cigarette substitute and one that is legal in the EU. The Eurobarometer numbers show that snus could work in Austria, Estonia and several other countries that have populations with smokeless tobacco experience.
Keep in mind that the differences in snus and smoking rates noted here would have been much even more impressive if Eurobarometer had separately reported men and women’s numbers. The snus experience has primarily affected smoking rates among Swedish men, although snus use has also been linked to smoking cessation in Swedish women (here).
The EU should take its head out of the sand and dissolve its unhealthy snus ban.
|Tobacco Use in Sweden Versus the Rest of the European Union, 2014|
|EU Country||Current Smoking (%)||Former Smoking (%)||Cigarettes Per Day||Ever Tried Oral, Nasal Tobacco (%)|