Denmark sued for not outlawing snus powder tobacco

Snus. [Alekos/Creative Commons].

Snus [Alekos]

The European Commission took Denmark to court on Thursday (10 July) for allowing the sale of snus, despite a European Union sales ban on the moist oral snuff.

Sweden, a snus producer, is currently the only country in the 28-member bloc permitted to sell the powder tobacco, a privilege granted when it joined the club in the 1990s.

The Commission, the EU’s executive body, said it took legal action after Denmark ignored a warning two years ago to bring its legislation in line with those in the 28-country bloc.

“Until now, Denmark has not notified any such measures to the Commission and continues to be in breach of EU law. For this reason, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the CJEU,” the Commission said, referring to Europe’s highest court in Luxembourg.

Judges are expected to rule on the case in coming months.

Snus played a part in the 2012 ousting of former EU Health Commissioner John Dalli, after one of his associates was accused of asking money from tobacco company Swedish Match in return for lifting a sales ban on the product outside Sweden.

Dalli has rejected the charges and has challenged Commission President José Manuel Barroso in court.

Snus, a moist oral tobacco snuff, has been banned in the EU since 1992. Sweden negotiated an exemption to the ban under its accession negotiations provided that the product is not sold outside Sweden.

The European Commission says that snus is addictive and has negative health effects. It is also viewed as particularly attractive to young people.

The campaign group Europeans for Snus says that the risk of dying from a tobacco-related illness, such as lung or oral cancer, is lower in Sweden than in any other European country despite consuming as much tobacco. They attribute the difference to Swedes' higher consumption of snus compared to cigarettes.

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