COP10 is a Threat to Safer Nicotine Products

The EU obscures its position on low-risk alternatives to smoking before the WHO COP10 conference in Panama, starting Monday

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On Monday, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) tenth Conference of Parties (COP10) conference begins in Panama. In an Op-ed for Planet of the Vapes, Bengt Wiberg says that tobacco free modern oral nicotine pouches and other less harmful alternatives to smoking like vapes are under threat.

Bengt Wiberg writes: Now both snus, tobacco free snus (nicotine pouches) and vapes are threatened by both the WHO and the EU. The Moderate party in government in Sweden and its Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson have always defended snus as a way to reduce tobacco harm. The Swedish Democrats, the Liberals, Christian Democrats and the Centre Party agrees. We thus have a clear party majority in the Swedish Parliament for tobacco harm reduction. It is mainly thanks to the availability of snus, nicotine pouches, vapes and heated tobacco that we have by far the lowest rate of daily smokers, 5.6% according to the Public Health Authority (2022) and by far the lowest rate of tobacco-related diseases in the EU. When snus use in Sweden has increased, smoking has decreased. More than 1 million Swedes have chosen snus and nicotine pouches over deadly cigarettes.

COP10 (WHO) meets in Panama - Sweden has the chance to influence

On February 5-10, the WHO member countries that have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will meet in Panama to discuss tobacco issues. Has the Swedish government ensured that the Sweden's delegation stands up for tobacco harm reduction and explained that snus and tobacco-free nicotine products such as nicotine pouches, snus and vaping are an important key to why Sweden has basically stopped smoking?

Total cover-up of the EU - Does the government know what is in the EU's position?

Sweden's chief delegate is Paula Ericson from the Ministry of Social Affairs. A journalist friend who dug into the matter only found out that "Sweden intends to follow the EU's line". But what is the EU's line really? When the journalist asked to see the EU's position on less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, the document was almost completely blacked out. It is unacceptable that the EU keeps such information a secret that affects approximately 130 million nicotine users in the EU, of which almost 100 million are unfortunately still smoking.

Those who have stopped smoking have mostly used ecigs, snus, nicotine pouches, heated tobacco or nicotine replacement products. If the government is aware of the EU's position document, and if this does not follow the Swedish line regarding harm reduction, then the government has to explain itself to Sweden's 1.4 million snus and nicotine pouch users and also those who use these products, or who wish to quit smoking in the rest of Europe.

It is scandalous that the COP10 meeting is closed to journalists, researchers, industry, and civil society. They are the ones who can best highlight the consequences that the meeting's decisions can have. If the COP10 meeting decides to ban nicotine pouches or flavours other than "tobacco flavour" in less harmful products such as snus, nicotine pouches and vaping products, it could have disastrous consequences for the approximately 140 million people in the world who have stopped smoking for good by switching to lower risk nicotine products. The risk is then that many will go back to life-threatening smoking. The 1 billion people who still smoke daily in the world risk being left without less harmful alternatives to smoking if the prohibitionists get their agenda through.

What can the Swedish government with support parties do?

The government, with the support of snus using party leader Jimmy Åkesson of the Swedish Democrats, can easily set the level of the COP10 decision as agreement with all member countries must be reached in the meeting's final decision, just like at the completely open COP28 climate meeting in Dubai recently. If the Swedish government hands over this enormous responsibility to a few officials in advance, the Swedish smoke-free traditions may soon be history. If Swedish snus had been invented in Hungary instead of Sweden, the "veto-veteran" Hungary would have long ago used its veto right on the matter and snus and nicotine pouches would then be legal throughout the EU. Now, therefore, the Swedish government, with the support of the parties that stand up for snus and harm reduction, must show the world where it stands on this vital issue once and for all.

UK takes the lead?

UK member of parliament Andrew Lewer explained just a few days ago to the UK Parliament the importance of standing up for tobacco harm reduction i.e. less harmful alternatives to cigarettes in the upcoming COP10 meeting in Panama.

MP Lewer said: “Despite the science being clear – that the use of smoking alternatives saves lives – the WHO is ignoring it and calling for countries to sign up to tighter regulations that could threaten the widespread use of harm reduction products by billions of smokers wanting to quit.”

Bengt Wiberg

Bengt Wiberg is a former CFO who turned unvoluntary nicotine pouch inventor after a visit to his dentist, inventing the worlds' first nicotine pouch with an integrated protection for the gum to eliminate the familiar burning sensation and irritation to the gum.

Bengt is a dedicated tobacco harm reduction advocate and the cofounder of the international consumer crowd movement EUforsnus that has several thousand members, from 100 nations, where about 85% are former smokers who have managed quit smoking totally thanks to snus and/or nicotine pouches. Bengt quit smoking for good in 1991 thanks to snus.


Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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