Why an EU-wide nicotine pouch ban could undermine public health

Stockholm, 9 October 2023 – In a baffling move that disregards data-driven public health strategies, the European Union is considering a full-scale ban on nicotine pouches.  Smoke Free Sweden strongly condemns such a backward proposal, highlighting its potential to sabotage the progress made in reducing smoking rates across Europe.

This information has been brought to light by Sweden Democrats’ MEP Charlie Weimers, who exposed a concealed EU report advocating for the prohibition. The document is part of preparatory works for the update of the Tobacco Products Regulation, expected in 2024. 

Dr. Delon Human, leader of the Smoke Free Sweden initiative and former Health Advisor to three WHO Directors-General, said, “If this is true, and the EU is planning to fully ban a proven less harmful alternative to cigarettes, I think we are in a position to really question why the EU is attempting to bring back smoking. These types of actions will do nothing else than force people back to combustible cigarettes.” 

It’s instructive to look at Belgium, a country that recently banned oral nicotine pouches, one of the harm-reduced products that have been pivotal in Sweden’s public health success. Belgium’s ban doesn’t make sense and is a missed opportunity to save lives.  Had Belgium emulated Sweden’s approach to harm reduction between the years 2000-2019, it is estimated that up to 90,570 smoking-related deaths could have been averted. This makes Belgium’s ban not just inconsistent, but tragically misguided.

A Europe wide ban flies in the face of evidence that shows how nicotine pouches and snus have been instrumental in reducing smoking rates in Sweden, which now stand close to less than 5% of the population smoking, a European record. 

Anders Milton, a well-known public health expert in Sweden, remarked, “A EU proposal to ban nicotine pouches would contradict its own mission to protect the health and well-being of its citizens. Sweden’s exemplary record in reducing smoking rates should serve as a case study for what can be achieved when harm reduction strategies are embraced rather than dismissed.

This would be a reckless proposal if it becomes reality, and its results will definitely be seen in our public health systems for decades to come – in terms of lives lost. Let us focus on strategies that are proven to reduce harm and save lives, rather than making decisions based on ideology or skewed information, ” concluded Dr. Human. 

Smoke Free Sweden is calling on  policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the public to challenge this detrimental proposal and to continue advocating for evidence-based approaches to tackle Europe’s tobacco crisis.