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Finnish MPs becoming more positive towards snus legalisation

An Yle poll found that some MPs would like to legalise snus in Finland to help rein in a flourishing black market.

Mies ottaa toisen miehen tarjoamasta nuuskarasiasta nuuskapussia.
Snus is usually sold in small packets that users place under the lip. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

An Yle survey of MPs has found growing support for the legalisation of snus sales in Finland.

Finnish politicians are becoming more open to legalising snus, an orally-ingested tobacco product that’s banned everywhere in the EU except Sweden.

The Swedish People’s Party has previously supported legalising snus in Finland. But Yle's poll now finds that support for the measure spans the political spectrum.

Residents can legally import up to 1kg of snus a day for personal use. However the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has proposed lowering this allowance to 100 grams. Last year, the Finnish Medical Association (FMA) said the import of snus should be banned altogether.

Students reselling old snus

Left Alliance MP Merja Kyllönen told Yle that while she’s not a fan of the substance, she wants the government to seek an EU exemption to the snus sales ban in Finland.

"We’re not able to manage this problem. The black market is growing and more young people are using snus. I’ve even heard from teachers that students are reselling used snus,” Kyllönen explained.

Proponents claim legalising snus sales would not only bring in taxes but also information on sellers and users.

Finns Party MP Juha Mäenpää recently proposed legalising snus, drawing on figures from 2013 estimating that illegally imported snus would earn the state 40 million euros in taxes annually if sold in Finland legally.

Approaching the issue from a substance abuse perspective, Atte Harjanne of the Greens said he supported legalisation as it would give health officials more control from a drug policy standpoint.

In total, 49 MPs responded to Yle’s survey on whether Finland should legalise the sale and import of snus. Eighteen came out in favour of legalisation, 24 were against the idea and seven parliamentarians could not provide an answer either way.

Even if Finland's legislature opted to legalise snus, changing EU policy would be an uphill battle.

Kyllönen said that despite low odds of change happening anytime soon, she wants to call Sweden out as it is the only EU country allowed to sell snus within its borders.

"How could Sweden get an exemption for a commercial activity happening within its borders that's causing problems in Finland?” Kyllönen asked.

Health experts: No to legalisation

The Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT) pointed out that Finland has committed to making the country smoke-free by the year 2030—a goal covering all nicotine products.

"Legalising snus doesn't support this goal," said Hanne Munter of EHYT.

She told Yle that the snus industry has successfully marketed the substance to young people, including girls.

Finland's health watchdog THL has indicated that more teens are taking up moist tobacco, with 20 percent of boys and six percent of girls in Finland reporting daily use.

Munter said that in addition to Facebook groups dedicated to selling snus, black market vendors are also active on Instagram and Snapchat. "Kids get snus from adults. It’s important that we don't raise another generation hooked on nicotine."

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