June 21 (Bloomberg) -- Sweden avoided a proposed ban on flavorings in snus smokeless-tobacco products as European Union governments approved stricter rules for cigarettes.
EU health ministers at a meeting today in Luxembourg agreed on draft legislation to ban the sale of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterizing flavors such as menthol, while leaving out smokeless tobacco. The ministers also backed a proposal to require that cigarette packages feature a combined pictorial and text alert covering 65 percent of the front and back.
The Swedish government said the EU agreement leaves the country with the authority to legislate on what goes into snus, which is banned in the other 26 EU nations.
“We have saved snus and can decide for ourselves on the ingredients, product regulation, tastes,” Maria Larsson, a minister in Sweden’s Health and Social Affairs Ministry, told TT news agency. “So dry snus doesn’t have to be the end result; it can keep its moisture.”
Snus is a moist powder tobacco usually portioned in pouches that resemble miniature versions of used tea bags and that are consumed under the upper lip. The EU banned advertising and sales of snus within the bloc in 1992. When Sweden joined the EU in 1995, it got an exemption from the ban.
The Swedish government has for years tried to convince the EU to scrap the prohibition and allow snus to be exported in Europe. Ewa Bjoerling, Sweden’s minister for trade, last year threatened an “all-out war” to defend snus.
Last week, the TT news agency reported that Sweden had given up on its long-running efforts to legalize snus within the rest of the EU and would instead push to retain its right to regulate what ingredients and flavors snus should be allowed to contain.
European regulators had proposed that the ban on flavorings also cover smokeless tobacco. Snus can be flavored with anything from spearmint and vanilla to raspberries and chili.
Stockholm-based Swedish Match AB, the world’s biggest maker of snus, said “it’s too early to make any conclusions” about the impact of the agreement. “We would like to see the full proposal before we come with any analysis,” spokesman Patrik Hildingsson told TT.
The proposed legislation also needs approval from the European Parliament.
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