Vice Squad
Thursday, February 28, 2008
EU Snus Ban Safe

Last week an EU committee, the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, released a report (available here) on snus, a smokeless tobacco product popular in Sweden but not legally available for sale in the rest of the EU. The committee noted that snus carries some health risks, and that its apparent success in Sweden at lowering the harms from smoking is not necessarily reproducible in other countries. So the EU's snus ban -- from which Sweden negotiated an exception at the time it joined the EU -- appears to be safe for now. Swedish Match, a major snus producer, tries to put a brave face on the committee report, but it seems to be a setback to their interest in ending the ban.

One of the attractions of a principled approach to vice policy is that it sidesteps the sort of special pleading that seems to dog vice control. Vices that someone disapproves of see their harms emphasized and their benefits minimized, while an approved vice receives the opposite treatment. And for many folks, the special pleading takes an obvious form: their own vices should be legal, but those unfamiliar vices of troublesome others, well, those vices should be suppressed.

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