Thursday, 31 May 2018

Snus heroes

I love these guys. They're celebrating World SmokeFree Day by launching a new business selling Swedish snus in New Zealand.

Jenesa went through the literature on snus in her report earlier this year. It's far safer than smoking, and it's ridiculous that it's been considered illegal, and that the Ministry continues to view it as banned.

The world has far too few people who are willing to give it a go despite the Ministry*.

It was always odd to interpret the SmokeFree Environments Act as banning snus, but you can kinda see how they took it that way if you ignore that the purpose of the Act is to reduce harm. The Act banned the sale of "any tobacco product labelled or otherwise described as suitable for chewing, or for any other oral use." The Court in March, in MoH v Philip Morris, reminded us about the importance of the harm reduction purposes of the act in s3A1(a), and said that the "other oral uses" part had to mean an activity like chewing.

Snus isn't chewed, but that seems a more minor point. The major point is that it's massively less harmful than smoking. People flipping from smoking to using snus reduce harm for themselves and, if you worry about second-hand smoke effects on others, there's none of that.

We still need changes to the rules. Snus shouldn't be banned for retail sale in New Zealand. We've known this for at least a decade. The NZ Smokeless Tobacco Company providing snus is remitting excise on the product, but the excise rates are well out of proportion to any risk - the product probably shouldn't draw any excise at all. And it is absurd that they're having to sell it under plain packaging with graphic warnings about the health risks of smoking - that may bring an interesting conflict-of-laws case where they're mandated to put on labels that are misleading, and misleading labeling can be illegal.

But at least they're giving it a go. Instead of taking the Ministry's interpretation, they'll be requiring the Ministry to prove their interpretation in Court. And if it winds up in front of the same judge who handled the heets case, it'll be interesting to see the result. Snus isn't like chewing, it isn't harmful, and banning the sale of it seems contrary to any harm reduction purpose in the Act.

Makes me wish, again, that iPredict were still going and had a market on whatever court case might come of this one.

* The Ministry of Health here is actually awesome on most dimensions of tobacco harm reduction. On vaping and heat-not-burn, they've got things dead right. I just don't get the hamfistedness around snus. [update: with caveat of course that the plain packaging rules are a nonsense for this stuff, but they're there I think pretty constrained by the legislation as written]

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