Swedish snus: No increase in tax but banned in the EU

Swedish snus: No increase in tax but banned in the EU

The European Commission usually does not comment on leaked documents but made an exception on Monday to debunk information in a Swedish daily about an alleged EU proposal to increase the excise duty in Sweden on snus.

Taxation is a member state competency. When the daily, Aftonbladet, claimed during the weekend that the EU intended to interfere in Swedish taxation and propose an increase in the tax (excise duty) on snus, it caused an uproar among politicians from both government and opposition and consumers. The new Swedish finance minister, Elisabeth Svantesson, called the proposal ‘unreasonable’.

The newspaper claimed that the tax increase was included in a leaked, secret proposal and described it as a shocking increase which would be announced in December. The price of a box of snus would increase by about 6 euro. The price had already been increased by the Swedish government in January 2022 to 468 Swedish crowns per kg (€43).

The Commission was quick in issuing a denial on Monday stating that the newspaper must have misunderstood the information in the document.  Since Sweden joined the EU in 1995, it has an exception to the ban of the sale of snus in the rest of the EU, a spokesperson explained. “Our proposal won’t change this as snus is illegal outside Sweden.”

“Sweden will keep its full freedom in deciding on its taxation and excise duty on snus,” he underlined.

Snus is the Swedish name of tobacco for oral use and is popular in Sweden where it has surpassed cigarette smoking among both men and women. According to figures published by its public health authority, 20 % of men and 6 % women (ages 16 – 84) were using snus daily in 2021. The corresponding figure for smoking is 6 % for both men and women.

For years, Swedish stakeholders with the support of the government have been lobbying against the ban on snus in the EU arguing that it is a violation of free trade and that using snus has less health risks than smoking.

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