Icelandic health officials have questioned a government proposal to ban the sale of mouth tobacco – or snuff – while it remains legal to sell cigarettes.
The Minister of Welfare has submitted a bill to parliament which would ban the sale of mouth tobacco in Iceland. Snuff use has increased by 25% from 2009 to 2011. This translates to 30 tonnes sold last year alone, and customs estimate that they have seized some 100 kilos of snuff that others attempted to smuggle into the country.
Minister of Welfare Guðbjartur Hannesson found the trend a worrying one. Last summer, he stated he believes the response should be to greatly increase the tax on mouth tobacco – which likely would not have much effect on smuggled tobacco – or make it illegal altogether.
Morgunblaðið reports that not everyone is thrilled about banning snuff, least of all leading health officials in Iceland.
Both Lúðvík Ólafsson, the medical director of the Primary Health Care of the Capital Area, and Chief Doctor Þorsteinn Blöndal – himself a specialist in respiratory disease – have objected to the ban. They contend that snuff – especially the Swedish “snus”, which is treated to greatly reduce adverse health effects – is far less dangerous than smoking tobacco. They add that cancer is not the only danger that arises from smoking; rather, the smoke can cause all manner of lung disease, while snuff does no harm to the lungs.