Swedish Match takes Government To court over ban on ‘oral tobacco’

Swedish Match is taking the Government to court over its ban on the sale of “oral tobacco” – and support for its legal action has come from an unlikely source, with one of the UK’s leading anti-smoking organisations, Action for Smoking and Health (ASH), weighing in on the tobacco company’s side.

A spokeswoman for Swedish Match confirmed that a court date has been set for October 15, but would not make any further comment as Marketing Week went to press.

Oral tobacco, popularly called chewing tobacco, is illegal throughout the European Union except in Sweden, where it has been a tradition since the 17th century. Swedish Match, however, wants to sell a new form of oral tobacco which it claims is lower in toxins and which comes in a packet similar to a teabag. It is placed against the gums, rather than being chewed.

In the UK, Swedish Match is best known for its Bryant & May and Swan Vesta matches, but in other countries it is a significant player in niche tobacco markets, such as snuff, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco.

ASH director Clive Bates says that research from Sweden shows that taking ground tobacco – “Snus”, or snuff – by mouth is considerably less harmful than smoking it. He believes that if other EU states legalised snus, it could help smokers kick their habit and save lives. At last week’s annual conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco in Santander, Spain, Bates called for the ban on snus to be lifted.

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