When is an exemption not an exemption? When the EU Commission says so

| April 2, 2013

Sweden’s exemption from the EU ban on snus is not as watertight as it might once have seemed.

The health and consumer affairs commissioner, Tonio Borg, recently told the European Parliament that the Swedish exemption, as set out in its accession treaty, related only to the placing on the market of oral tobacco. “It did not in any way provide a derogation for oral tobacco from the obligations of the Tobacco Products Directive,” he said.

Borg was answering a three-part question from the MEP, Åsa Westlund, who, in the preamble to her question said, as a result of the commission proposal for a revised directive on tobacco, a significant proportion of Swedish snus was liable to be banned, even in Sweden.

“Commissioner Borg confirmed this when asked about it at a meeting with the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on 25 February, where he expressed the expectation that 10 percent of the snus currently sold in Sweden would be covered by the ban, which the commission was proposing,” Westlund said.

“Sweden’s derogation is not formulated in such a way as to apply, for example, to 90 percent of Swedish snus: it applies to all Swedish snus, as Commissioner Borg himself stated at the committee meeting. This must be fully respected.”

Westlund then posed three questions:
“Why does the commission not respect Sweden’s derogation for snus in the proposal for a directive on tobacco which it has submitted? By proposing that certain flavourings should be banned, including in snus, the commission is, through the back door, banning a major element in what makes Swedish snus what it is.

“How will the commission ensure that Sweden’s derogation for snus is fully respected when the new tobacco directive is adopted by the legislative institutions?

“Would it not be best to exempt snus from the tobacco directive altogether, as it is a product which is only sold in Sweden and hence possesses no European dimension?”

In his reply, Borg said that “all other provisions” of the current directive applied to oral tobacco. “Thus, oral tobacco must comply with existing provisions on labelling (health warnings) and ingredients reporting,” he said. “The same principle applies for the proposed directive, e.g. regarding the prohibition of products with characterising flavors. This approach is fully compatible with the Accession Treaty.

“The commission foresees that the greatest impact of the proposal will be on limiting the number of young people who start using snus. Existing snus users with a nicotine addiction are likely to continue to consume snus without characterizing flavors or to switch to such products without characterizing flavours. The impact on existing consumption will therefore be limited.”

The import of Borg’s answer seems to be that while Sweden’t excemption from the ban on snus might remain in force, in theory, a future TPD provision could be brought in that would make the manufacture of such snus impossible.

Category: Breaking News

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