The Tobacco Products Directive: worst. sequel. ever.


Ban that. And……yep, ban that. Because children.


I had a good chuckle earlier today after a friend sent me a link to the latest edition of Purse-lipped Puritan, with its December centrefold Miss Sweden:



I’d have left it at that were it not for the fact that I spotted the name Martina Pötschke-Langer on the advisory board.

I was well aware that these two worked closely together at the extremist, fanatical end of the Tobacco Control anti-harm reduction spectrum. After all, when Public Health Sweden hosted a conference with the PH Minister Gabriel Wikström earlier this year, the presentation on ecigarettes was led by the wibbling moonbattery of Martina’s DKFZ outfit. As you can imagine, they were simply gushing with praise for this harm-reduction revolution.



Oh. Surely they must have had something nice to say?




Ah. A begrudging admission that respiratory improvements were likely, assuming you don’t die of all the scary but implausible, highly unlikely and/or impossible stuff they focused on.

This is what really boils my piss about these cross-border scaremongering initiatives; the way the junk science & scaremongering, which is ultimately intended to influence and coerce politicians and public alike, spreads like the cancer they pretend they are trying to prevent. The anti-vaping Powerpoint assault gets exported to Sweden, while a quick glance at Pötschke-Langer’s documents on this site highlights how decades of anti-snus propaganda and lies can be neatly bundled together and exported to Germany. It’s one of the worst pieces of anti-THR drivel ever created, and that’s a pretty competitive field.

Little wonder then that other organisations who are represented in this group, such as ASH Ireland and UKCTAS, are so woefully uninformed.  They’ve been subject to a relentless barrage of blood-curdling Nordic Noir, courtesy of the pens of Stockholm’s Karolinska University researchers. International prohibitionists play a never-ending game of chinese whispers, and the junk science gets ever more exaggerated, abused and exploited with every border it crosses.

The EU snus ban was a triumph for hysterical fanatics, who succeeded in spreading the junk science of a small group of researchers with highly dubious motives, and by provoking the knee-jerk instincts of uninformed and more often than not misinformed politicians to “be seen to be doing something”.

If you haven’t read Christopher Snowdon’s excellent account already, treat yourself to a Christmas present and discover more about the remarkable series of events that led to the ban. The parallels between that and the current war on vaping (by the same protagonists) is uncannily familiar:





Not a proven cessation product!


The implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016 will uphold the original EU snus ban, as well as introducing a raft of wholly arbitrary bans, restrictions and unnecessary and prohibitive regulations on e-cigarettes. As sequels go, it is nothing more than a pale imitation. What makes it as scary as the original is that they believe they can get away with it again.



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.


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.”


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.

Harming harm reduction harms people

Less than a week into the new Socialist-Green coalition government, and the signs are already on the wall that it’s going to be a nightmare – with leftist Public Health ideology set to triumph over common sense and thought for the people that they represent.

Not satisfied with the continuing attempts to ban the sale of ecigs via medicinal regulation (which no ecig on earth can hope to satisfy), the new government has set its sights on another hero of tobacco harm reduction – snus.

As reported in Expressen today, Sweden is set for a tax rise. Well that’s hardly surprising for a group of Socialist parties, you might think. And you’d be right. There will be many tax rises. But this is a tax rise that they specifically and vocally ruled out in their shadow budget last year.

While cigarette tax is set to rise by 6%, these bright sparks have decided that snus tax will rise by 12%.

This batshit crazy policy will cause harm – as some people might decide to choose to smoke, instead of using a product that is so much safer that it isn’t just in a different ballpark, it’s a different sport altogether.

Such policies aren’t simply the brainchild of a deranged government, however. They are the direct result of these countries signing up to the FCTC – which is in turn used by raving hordes of prohibitionists to blackmail & bully the public, the media and most significantly the politicians, into anti-tobacco policies that rarely, if ever, put the health of the public in focus.

The result is that in Tobacco Control circles a tax rise – any tax rise – is “a good thing”, irrespective of the potential effects of such a rise. Whether that’s an increase in smuggling, increases in poverty amongst tobacco users, or in this case the potential for increasing the amount of people smoking lit tobacco.

I’ll leave you with his graph – the retail price of snus versus cigarettes. For your reference, Sweden signed the FCTC in July 2005.

Retail Price snus

“We don’t need ecigs…we’ve got snus!”

This intriguing and equally baffling comment was made by a Swedish MEP outside the European Parliament in Brussels, to a campaigner fighting the proposed e-cigarette regulations in the Tobacco Products Directive.

I have been a Swedish resident for 11 years. I am also a vaper, and I see tobacco harm reduction in action via snus and e-cigarettes every day – both personally, and by witnessing first hand the experiences of others. The comment shocked me. What I hear is either: “Snus is bad enough, but there would be riots if we ban it” or: “We’ve got some harm reduction already; we don’t want any more!” It is deeply saddening to hear someone suggest that the harm reduction product snus (which many countries fail to embrace) is a reason not to embrace a product that is proving itself to be a formidable harm reduction tool elsewhere.

Sweden has a long history of hysterical over-reaction to common pleasures. Home to one of the most swivel-eyed temperance movements to have graced our planet (still going strong today), it’s often at the forefront of random and often comical prohibitions.

When skateboarding first took off around the globe, Sweden’s first instinct was to ban it. An obscure piece of scaremongering research from the USA was further exaggerated in translation, leading to the quite astonishing conclusion that skateboarding “is probably the most dangerous activity known to man”. So for the sake of The Children it was was banned.

Coffee is another everyday human pleasure that has suffered national bans (6 times in fact, for a total of 17 years). Although in this instance it was banned in retaliation, as part of a political battle between farmers and the elite Burghers. The Burghers had previously penalized farmers for having the temerity to brew & distill their own alcohol – a battle that continues to this day (it’s still illegal for a cider farm, for example, to sell…erm…cider to the public).

So it should come as no surprise that Sweden is trying its hardest to ban ecigs, citing a mixture of junk science, scaremongering studies from the USA, and of course the prohibitionists’ killer app – The Children. When Swedish eliquid “poisoning” cases (a mixture of phone enquiries, mild stomach aches & some dizziness) “skyrocketed” from 3 in 2012 to 29 in 2013, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that Ebola was sweeping the Baltic, such was the hysterical reaction of the Tobacco Control industry, politicians & the ever-willing media.

The sale of eliquids & ecigs containing nicotine is still in limbo, as the court ruling that declared nicotine eliquid to be an illegal medicine continues to bounce around the appeal courts. In this legal vacuum, vaping is still a relatively underground activity, with just a few shops and a few more online vendors. Their future is in the hands of the Swedish legal system, as is the natural spread of ecig take-up among smokers that we have seen in other countries.

So what can we make of the MEP’s comment?

Some in the Swedish establishment are still rightly proud of snus, and accept and/or support its continued use. However it would appear that many Swedish politicians, egged on by anti-tobacco campaigners, are convinced that with smoking rates down to around 12-13% (although Euromonitor puts this figure at around 16%), now is not the time to “dither around with harm reduction any more” (a statement from a presentation at the recent ECToH Conference), but to stamp out cigarettes, snus and e-cigarettes as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I understand that some members of the Tobacco Control industry might agree that this is a noble goal. But let’s be honest, for everyone else outside that community and a growing number within, it is neither realistic, nor pragmatic. And if snus and e-cigarettes aren’t both seen as part of the solution, then harm reduction automatically becomes part of your problem. And therein lies a huge risk to public health.

I believe that the inability to accept snus and its role in ongoing tobacco harm reduction has caused, and will continue to cause harm. I worry that the campaign to prohibit e-cigarettes (or at the very least to restrict them to the bland, ineffective, cessation-based world of medicinal regulation) here in Sweden will cause harm – since smokers would be denied a personalised consumer experience that is widely acknowledged to be at least 95% and probably >99% safer.

A bit about snus

Snus plays a unique role in Swedish culture. A mix of finely ground tobacco, water, salt, flavourings and sodium carbonate (to regulate the pH value), it’s been around since the 1600s – either as a loose tobacco product that is rolled up into a small ‘dose’, and more recently also in small, rectangular pouches like tiny teabags, with perforations to allow the contents to deliver their flavour and nicotine to the user.

Like many tobacco products, its popular use has shifted between social classes as times and fashions change – in recent times it has become an almost iconic working-class product, fiercely cherished and defended by manual workers and farmers as a proud Swedish tradition. But its position in society took on an entirely new role in the late 20th Century, as more became known about the dangers of smoking lit tobacco. Suddenly snus was being championed as a product at the forefront of a new way of thinking – tobacco harm reduction.

The crucial impact it made was twin-pronged – people began to switch to snus either to quit smoking entirely or to cut down, but also many young people chose snus in preference to smoking, as a less harmful (and more socially acceptable) alternative, particularly as the anti-smoking and anti-smoker movements took hold.

A taxing issue

There was a recent proposal to raise the tax on snus, which for many snus users would actually raise the price of their daily use above the average daily cost of a smoker. What sort of a message does that send out? In one particularly chilling and ill-thought-out interview, a Government Minister defended this paradox by saying: “Well if we raise the tax on cigarettes it will increase smuggling.” The fact that snus consumed in Sweden is mostly produced in Sweden (and therefore less likely to be susceptible to smuggling) is true; that someone could accept that making snus more expensive than smoking isn’t a potential public health disaster is nothing short of disgraceful.

The amount of people you meet in Sweden who have never smoked, but use snus everyday, is quite remarkable – and around 20% of the adult male population uses snus on a daily basis. There are also a significant number of people who we might consider to be smokers, who due to their knowledge and awareness of the differences in effects of the two products are essentially predominantly snus users – they might have the odd cigarette here and there and maybe a few more in social situations.

The overall, population-level effects, as I’m sure many of you are well aware, are astonishing. I’m sure that the Swedish MEP feels very proud of the general health of the population.

But there is an elephant in the room.

Out of a population of around 9m, there are still 1 million smokers. And I was one of them. And I’m certain that a great many of those 1 million smokers felt exactly like me. I’d used snus on many occasions over my 11 years in Sweden, and I still use it today – it’s handy, especially for flights and other smoke-free environments where you can’t pop out when you fancy a smoke.

However, I could never really say that it would appeal to me as a complete replacement for smoking cigarettes – for one thing I had no strong desire to quit smoking. And I loved smoking – there is simply no way that placing a little pouch of tobacco under my lip was going to replace the joy, the utterly pleasant sensation I felt when I smoked.

I quit by accident – E-cigarettes have become my particular, personal choice of effective tobacco harm reduction. Snus works for some (as well as preventing the uptake of smoking on a population level), NRT works for others, and let’s not forget that cold turkey is still by far the best cessation method for those who are interested in and determined enough to want to quit smoking altogether.

Snus plays a vital role in tobacco harm reduction – both as a consumer product that causes less harm on uptake, an alternative for existing smokers who wish to reduce harm but don’t see a need to quit using nicotine, and as a non-medical, self-titrating and personal approach to first smoking, then nicotine cessation. But nothing works for everyone – we are all unique in our relationships with – and use of – tobacco. So why would our reaction to different forms of harm reduction and cessation be any different?

The Quit, Die or Snus approach fails too many Swedes

When I log in to the Swedish ecig forums, I read about people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s who have logged on to meet other vapers to share experiences, tips, advice – but also to share their story. I’m not ashamed to admit that it often brings a tear to my eye to read about a 50-year smoker who lives out in the middle of nowhere in rural Sweden, who has found something “magical” – and no longer smokes. These are people who have smoked for years – despite trying NRT, hypnotherapy, cold turkey, and yes, even snus. They have found what works for them.

But what galls me most – what really makes my blood boil and froth is this: snus use is and has always been predominantly used by men, and the rates of smoking amongst young women in Sweden is actually rising. According to the Swedish national statistics service, smoking rates in this group increased from 10% in 2009 to 13% in 2013. Recent figures shown at a youth smoking conference confirm that around 40% of young people start either smoking or using snus as they reach 18 – and since a far greater number of the male students choose snus, it’s clear to see how the harm reduction potential of snus helps young men to a much greater extent than it does young women.

So young women are still taking up smoking, and at a faster rate than they have done for years. And just like with previous generations of Swedish women, they are choosing to smoke despite the fact that snus is freely & widely available. At what is probably the most stressful time in their lives, these young women have chosen to do something which has a widely known and observable stress-relieving chemical and psychological effect. They have enough on their plate without being hounded by tobacco controllers, teachers & parents – particularly when they may be the source of some of the stress that they relieve by smoking.

By prohibiting the sale, availability or effectiveness of e-cigarettes, Sweden is missing out on the possibility of a genuine & immediate health intervention. Every one of those young adults who has recently become a smoker, who might have switched to e-cigarettes (or even by-passed cigarettes altogether and just used e-cigarettes, as many snus users do), will be denied the right to try a product that is clearly having a positive harm reduction impact on millions around the globe.

While many in positions of power and influence in Sweden are less openly proud to admit it these days, snus has clearly worked. And it continues to work, by enabling a huge proportion of the population to either switch from cigarettes, reduce the amount of cigarettes they smoke, or simply to take up a habit that allows them to enjoy the effects of nicotine with an essentially imperceptible risk. Snus should be freely available worldwide. But it would work even better as part of a harm reduction strategy that includes the wide availability of e-cigarettes as consumer products.

So to the Swedish MEP, the rest of the Swedish politicians, public health officials and anti-smoking/snus/e-cigarette extremists, I will say this:

“You do need e-cigs – because not everybody likes snus.”

(To which I would add “or cares to bother trying your medical “help” again”)


Tobacco, Snus & Cigarette use in Sweden (As with most tobacco statistics, smoking rate figures in Sweden often vary wildly, but it is the ratio of snus/cigarette use that is most relevant here)

Men / Women

Total use of tobacco     31%         18%

Snus                                20%         3%

Cigarettes                       13%         15%

Gymnasiet Year 2 Students (17-18 y.o.)

Trying/Starting                40%         38%

Daily tobacco use           20%         13%

Source: CAN(2012) Drug use in Sweden 2011.

If you haven’t already done so, I would urge you to visit these outstanding blogs, where you’ll find comprehensive details on the scientific research and politics concerning snus, ecigs and tobacco harm reduction: