ECJ Snus Hearing Update

Posted 13th February 2018 by Mawsley
The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) was represented at the European Court of Justice on the 25th January, as part of the push to overturn the ban on snus across European Union countries. The case originated with makers Swedish Match, but the NNA were asked to join in as it concerned the health of smokers.

Swedish Match is the leading manufacturer of snus, a moist smokeless powdered tobacco. It is sold in Sweden as a loose powder or pre-packaged in a small sachet. Its sale is banned across the European Union. London’s High Court ruled that the NNA could join the challenge on the 26th January 2017.

For snus

The NNA was represented by the barrister Paul Diamond, QC, Gerry Stimson, expert witnesses Karl Lund and Lars Ramström, Atakan Befrits as the Chair of NNA Sweden, Bengt Wiberg and Uwe Hille from the snus community, and NNA administrator Jessica Harding. Professor Martin Jarvis was there as an expert witness for Swedish Match.

Against snus

Lawyers speaking on behalf of the UK government, the government of Norway, the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission spoke in favour of continuing the ban.

The arguments

Each party had quarter of an hour to deliver their arguments and respond to any written questions (previously submitted by other parties). The speakers were heard by seven judges.

According to the NNA, “Swedish Match argued that snus has a lower health risk than the other products covered by the directive (TPD), that snus has a positive effect on public health (“the Swedish experience”), that the [WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control] covers all tobacco products so all should be regulated, that there is no product that is completely safe for everyone in all circumstances, that the EU legislator had failed to do a proper assessment and failed to analyse the evidence correctly, that the ban was discriminatory, irrational and disproportionate.”

The NNA’s legal presentation argued that smokers had never been consulted, had a right to a safer alternative to smoking, and pointed out that Norway’s drop in smoking rates occurred at the same time snus use rose.

The NNA described the UK government’s support of continuing a ban as “baffling”, and “very disappointing”. Full details of the objections to snus and the reasons for supporting the ban can be found on the NNA’s blog.

After the judges had asked some questions, each side was given five minutes to reply to other presentation points. Now all parties wait until the 12th April 2018, when the Advocate General will deliver his opinion – which acts as an indication of how the full court will rule.