By Christian Engström - 27th November 2012
I have sent a written question to the commission asking what evidence the ban on snus is based on
Christian Engström wants clarification on the scientific basis of the EU's ban on the smokeless tobacco product 'snus'.
The resignation of health commissioner John Dalli after allegations of corruption has put the spotlight on the handling of the tobacco products directive by the health and consumer directorate general (DG Sanco), and in particular on the ban on snus in the EU outside Sweden. Snus is a traditional smoke free tobacco product that has been manufactured and sold in Sweden for two hundred years. It has helped many Swedes to either stop smoking completely, or at least reduce their smoking significantly, including myself. Smoking prevalence in Sweden among men is the lowest in the EU, and Swedish snus is almost certainly a contributing factor.
The allegation is that Dalli, or somebody close to him, was offering to lift the ban on snus for a €60m bribe. If the European commission can demonstrate clearly that the recommendations in the draft directive are based on facts and solid scientific data, this will obviously weaken the allegation that the outcome was meant to be decided by bribes. If this is the case, more transparency by the commission will help Dalli clear his name, and help restore confidence in the commission as a whole after the Dalli affair.
But if it turns out that the ban on snus is not evidence based, president Barroso must reshuffle his commission, and appoint a senior commissioner as head of DG Sanco, to investigate what has happened under Dalli, and what parts of the draft tobacco products directive need to be revised. It would have to be a senior commissioner, to demonstrate that Barroso is taking the reputation of his commission seriously. I have sent a written question to the commission asking what evidence the ban on snus is based on. If DG Sanco turns out to be unable or unwilling to answer that question, the commission president must act decisively.
Christian Engström is a member of parliament’s internal market and consumer protection committee