The government has decided to give in to EU demands that all forms of snus, a type of chewing tobacco, be banned in Denmark. The capitulation comes following a formal notice in June from the EU Commission warning that Denmark would be hauled before the courts in violation of the EU tobacco directive prohibiting the sale of tobacco for oral use.
"The Danish government noted the commission's assessment and decided to submit a bill by the end of March 2013 banning the sale of loose snus in Denmark,” the health minister, Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti), wrote in a note to the European Affairs Committee.
It is currently legal to sell loose snus in Denmark. The small pouches are banned. The EU is demanding that all smokeless tobacco products be removed from the shelves in accordance with EU rules.
Venstre, Dansk Folkeparti, Liberal Alliance and Enhedslisten all said that they would not support the government’s effort to ban snus.
“Venstre could not support such a ban, which goes too far,” spokesperson Sophie Løhde told Information newspaper. “It will lead to a black market or people simply buying snus abroad.”
Enhedslisten spokesperson Per Clausen said that using snus is less dangerous than smoking.
"This does not mean that snus is healthy, but I see this as the tobacco industry using the EU to promote its own interests,” Clausen told Information. “I can not imagine that we would vote for such a bill.”
Liberal Alliance spokesperson Joachim Olsen said that research has shown that when smokeless tobacco is banned, people begin smoking more.
The Danish cancer society, Kræftens Bekæmpelse, agrees that snus is less harmful than smoking, but project manager Niels Them Kjær stressed that the habit still increases the risk of cancer in the mouth and pancreas. Kjær feels that snus use is growing.
"We are afraid it will turn out like smoking hookahs [water pipes],” Kjær told Information. “No one would have believed 10 or 15 years ago that a habit practised by old Lebanese men would suddenly become a hit in western Europe."