Hands up who likes cancer?

There was a walkabout in Stockholm yesterday, organised by the major charity Cancerfonden (The Cancer Fund). It was a bright and sunny day, but the walkers sported natty pink woolly hats to ward off the chill in the air, and more importantly to raise awareness for this fine organisation.

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I think we can all agree that cancer is a BAD THING. I can’t think of anyone who either holds or expresses an opinion contrary to the prevailing view that cancer is a BAD THING. Maybe there are – let me know in the comments if you find one.

So a march to raise awareness of cancer, and to raise funds for research into different forms of cancer is always to be applauded. They even managed to get a celebrity to march with them. When I say celebrity, I mean politician.

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For those of you who don’t recognise him, this is Carl Schlyter. He was a Green party MEP, but after qualifying for his generous EU pension, he stepped down from his Brussels post to run in the recent general election. His party managed to shed tonnes of votes since the last election, and received a paltry 6.9% this time around. So, as befits a modern democracy, the Greens are now in government as part of a shaky coalition with the main socialist party (there are at least four here – I know, it beggars belief).

So what message did Carl have for the people who braved the first of Sweden’s autumnal chills to join him on the walkabout? A pledge to increase funding for child leukemia research & care? An increased determination to spend his time in government exploring how the worrying recent rises in skin & breast cancer could best be tackled? Oh no. As reported by Smart Ungdom, the youth charity, he said:

“I hope that this new government will be brave enough to make an even stronger effort against tobacco.”

Wait..what?

I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure people would rather see politicians (and charities) focussing their efforts on those forms & cases of cancer that strike seemingly at random, rather than castigating people’s freedom to make their own lifestyle choices. Particularly when half of those who choose to use tobacco in Sweden don’t even smoke.

Now Carl’s not a big fan of companies it seems. Or of people selling things that he doesn’t like. So perhaps his decision to focus on tobacco was simply an ideological preference? After all, you can’t blame skin cancer on Big Sun, or breast cancer on…well you know what I mean.

As you may well know, or have picked up from my previous posts, snus has had quite an effect here in Sweden. In fact, despite Sweden consuming among the highest levels of nicotine per person in the EU, it also has the lowest levels of lung & pretty much every other cancer going.

Let’s ask an expert shall we? Here’s Brad Rodu on health effects:

“The impact of this preference (for snus) on their health is so small that it is barely measurable by modern epidemiological methods.”

“(UK epidemiologist) Dr. Lee confirms what I have been asserting since 1994: Smokeless tobacco use is 99% less hazardous than smoking, and the magnitude of risk, if it exists, is difficult to measure using modern epidemiological methods.”

So since 50% of the tobacco users in Sweden use a form of tobacco that is so extraordinarily different to smoking lit tobacco, you’d have thought that Carl would be keen to distinguish between the two. But they never do, do they?

If Carl is genuinely concerned about the risk of cancer for those who smoke, he’d object to the EU-wide snus ban. He’d object to his own government’s latest tax rise on snus. He’d at the very least be a fan of the spread of vaping among smokers & an increasing number of now ex-smokers throughout the EU, wouldn’t he?

EU Tobacco Products Directive 2014.

Shadow Rapporteur: Carl Schlyter.

Oh dear.

Carl prides himself on refusing to have any contact whatsoever with cigarette companies or their lobbyists during the legislative process of the EU TPD. Noble principles indeed. But had he met them, he may have experienced calls for punitive over-regulation of the thing that cigarette manufacturers fear the most: small-medium independent enterprises in the e-cigarette industry and their products.

He might have smelled a rat.

Since he didn’t meet them, we can assume that he must look on in astonishment (and one would hope a deal of shame) as cigarette manufacturers lobby the FDA for the very same kind of prohibitive over-regulation that he himself helped to deliver in Europe.

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Oh dear indeed.

In case you were in any doubt, Carl is by no means unique; anti-vaping, anti-snus, anti-harm reduction sentiment is rife in Swedish politics, and not entirely exclusive to the left. Not all Centre-right MEPs campaigned or voted against the snus & ecig ban elements of the TPD, and very few of them seem interested in opposing the state’s ongoing court case to ban ecigs as illegal medicines. It’s simply that the left are often more vocal, and always the keenest to deny choice in the name of anti-business rabble-rousing.

Kudos to former MEP Christian Engström of the Pirate Party and Christopher Fjellner MEP of the Moderate Party for fighting the good fight – I’m sure the entire vaping community is grateful for your support for ecigs & snus, and share the hope that it will not be in vain.

Thanks to snus, Sweden earned the reputation as the world leader in tobacco harm reduction. These days you’d be forgiven for thinking that the accolade is no longer deserved.

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