Swedish snus has been consumed in Scandinavia since the mid 1800s. In May 1992, the European Union prohibited the placing on the market of tobacco for oral use (including Swedish snus). The prohibition was introduced by Directive 92/41/EEC amending Directive 89/622/EEC.1
Article 8 states that: "Member States shall prohibit the placing on the market of tobacco for oral use as defined in Article 2(4)".
Article 2(4) defined "tobacco for oral use" as "all products for oral use, except those intended to be smoked or chewed, made wholly or partly of tobacco, in powder or particulate form or in any combination of these forms – particularly those presented in sachet portions or porous sachets – or in a form resembling a food product."
Basis for the ban of oral tobacco was that "…products for oral use will be used above all by young people, thus leading to nicotine addiction…" and that "…in accordance with the conclusions of the studies conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, tobacco for oral use contains particularly large quantities of carcinogenic substances; whereas these new products cause cancer of the mouth in particular."2
This definition of oral tobacco is based on the way the product is used and not on the quality of the product or the risk associated. It prohibits Swedish snus, considered amongst the least harmful tobacco products, but allows other types of smokeless tobacco, some of which with very high risk profiles.
However, there are some notable exemptions to the prohibition on tobacco for oral use within the EU. The use of snus in Sweden, for example, was considered to be significant enough to justify an exemption when it joined the EU in 1995, although a ban was placed on the export of snus to other EU member states. In Denmark 'loose' snus is exempt because the product is considered a "traditional tobacco product".
1The prohibition of tobacco for oral use in the EU is also covered by Article 8 of Directive 2001/37/EC.
2Council Directive 92/41/EEC of 15 May 1992 amending Directive 89/622/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the labelling of tobacco products