The New Nicotine Alliance has been granted the opportunity brought by manufacturers Swedish Match to challenge the EU and UK ban on the smoking cessation product named ‘snus’.
Introduced in the early 18th century, snus is an alternative to combustible tobacco and has been credited with vastly reducing the impact of cancer in both Sweden and Norway. With the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive in 2014, the product was banned across the EU in its entirety – with Sweden being granted an exception.
As the majority of smoking-related diseases are as a result of the combustion of tobacco, any nicotine delivery system that negates the need to ‘smoke’ should be heralded by anti-smoking campaigners as progressive and necessary.
However, the TPD has decided to outlaw the established practice in favour of alternative therapies – despite its aim of moving the EU population towards a healthier lifestyle.
On 26 January, presiding High Court judge Mrs Justice Lang concurred with both Gerry Stimson and Jessica Harding of the NNA that Swedish Match was unable to challenge the decision made during the enactment of the TPD, until it had passed into law.
This decision has angered the Department of Health, who believed that the company should have challenged the decision in 2014, before the TPD was realised.
All safer nicotine products should be widely available
Functioning as a third-party intervenor on the behalf of the public, the NNA is now free to have its voice heard in the fight to allow snus to be recognised as a healthier alternative to the traditional smoking of cigarettes.
“E-cigarettes are having a major impact, but they don’t work for everyone in all circumstances,” said Professor Gerry Stimson.
“We want to see wide availability of all safer nicotine products as alternatives to smoking.”
While some see snus as a threat to the proliferation of vaping across Nordic countries, many health professionals feel that any alternative to traditional cigarettes should be promoted in an effort to relieve the burden on health departments throughout the EU.
The British government has made clear its intentions to part ways with the European Court of Justice post-Brexit, so the final decision rests with the ECJ for the time being. If the ECJ considers the case made by Swedish Match and the NNU to carry enough weight, the ban on snus would repealed across the whole of the EU, including the UK.
The ruling itself is unlikely to be made within the next 18 months, but for many anti-smoking campaigners, the ability to appeal the TPD is considered a major victory.