Cigarettes have always been cheap in Spain. The last time I was there they were 2 euro a packet, now they are around 4 - 4.50 euro, still cheaper than the UK but a massive price hike compared to what they did cost.
I have found that tobacco has always been cheap in Spain. In fact, most things in Spain and throughout most of Europe are cheap compared to the UK, even items that we here find cheap (like booze) are cheaper in Spain: (1 euro 30 a beer anyone? find a pub in the UK selling beer for £1.30! In fact I bought a 6 pack of Estrella for 2 euro 49 in a supermarket!!!).
Reactions to Swedish snus in Spain
I digress, so as I was introducing the typical Spanish way of enjoying an evening to my other half, my normal tobacco fix was absent. Instead of lighting up a tab, I threw in a snus.
I took 3 tins of snus with me: General Strong White, Grovsnus Original Portion and Olde Ving Melon Portion. The Ving didn't last long as I was already halfway through it when we left.
A delay at Heathrow airport meant it took a pounding since we managed to blag our way into the British Airways first class lounge, and when the words 'free' and 'champagne' appear in the same sentence, you will normally find me there!
Our hotel was in the Poblenu area of Barcelona, and along the Rambla Poblenu there are many bars and cafes. We were sat outside one one night (we were treated to a steady 27 degrees Celsius during the day and 23 at night) we ordered dos canas and a popped my snus on the table, threw in a portion and enjoyed the evening.
Now, most places I go where I drop a snus tin on the table or bar, I normally get asked about it, or, rarely, someone who knows about snus will ask me for one.
In light of the proposed EU tobacco products directive (TPD), I wanted to see what the Spanish thought of snus if I was asked about it.
During our whole 10 day stay I was asked a grand total of 3 times about snus! Now I was on holiday so snus activism wasn't at the front of my mind but, I do enjoy telling people about snus and harm reduction when asked.
Compare this with last year when we were in Cologne and I never shut up about the stuff I got that much interest in my tin of Skruf I gave away more than I used!
Of the three who asked me about snus, one told me the thought of putting tobacco in his mouth made him feel sick. Then he promptly went back to drawing on his unfiltered Camels. If you have ever smoked an unfiltered cigarette you will get the irony!
One liked the idea but and had seen snus in Sweden but didn't have a clue what it was at the time. He also said he didn't want to quit smoking, which is a very rare responds. I gave him my email address in case he ever decided to quit so I could offer some snus wisdom.
One tried a portion of General and quite liked it but knew nothing about smokeless tobacco or that it even existed! He had tried to quit smoking via the usual methods and it didn't work. Vaping wasn't his thing as "it just wasn't like smoking a cigarette" so he had resigned himself to a life on the cancer sticks.
A quick scribble on the back of his cigarette packet pointed him in the direction of the relevant websites where he could find out more. Being a snus missionary not being my primary goal of this trip, I logged a success in the memory bank and carried on with my evening.
The Snus Ban and the TPD
One thing that did come out though was the complete lack of knowledge of the ban on snus. The TPD was known, and I am glad to report 100% opposed it (well 3 out of 3 people who I discussed it with is hardly a huge cross section, but I take it as a victory!).
The people were not happy with being told what they can or cannot consume as adults. Tobacco being a legal product and thus their choice whether they consumed it or not. They also loved their menthol's which, as we all know, faces being banned by the EU for some bizarre "save the children" justification.
I have been quite quiet on the whole EU front, but the recent revision to the TPD has kept the snus ban in place, despite ALL of the committees advising that the ban should be lifted, or leaving it up to individual member states to decide.
Now, why would you propose amendments to a directive that blatantly ignores the recommendations of all the groups you ask to advise on it?
Why would you put at risk the health of the people of all the member states by freely allowing the sale of a product (cigarettes) that will kill or cause serious harm to you, yet deny a much safer alternative, when your primary objective is meant to be the health and well being of the people of those member states!
The ex directer of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) here in the UK agrees with a harm reduction strategy and that the Swedish snus ban should be lifted! If anyone knows anything about ASH then they will know that they are seriously anti tobacco and smoking.
Now if their ex director (this is his own personal view I must add) thinks the snus ban should be lifted, a view that is based on scientific evidence and all the facts on Swedish snus that are out there, what does that tell you?
Not only is the snus ban in the EU denying adults the chance to consume a much safer tobacco product to cigarettes, it puts the health of every tobacco consumer in the EU (except Sweden and Denmark where you can purchase snus) at serious risk and does not act in the best interests of public health.
I am no longer a smoker. I do however, believe that the proposed revisions to the TPD are effectively a death sentence to EU citizens.
Unelected officials (other member states representatives who I did not vote for who have nothing to do with the UK and are probably trying to do us over because we aren't as pro EU as they are!) legislating on what adults can or cannot do with a legal product smacks of the North Korean regime.
I am sickened that Swedish snus will remain banned despite all the science clearly showing that it is 99% safer than smoking (which remains effectively unregulated and allowed to kill people).
The EU was so keen to put onto packs the tar and nicotine yields of cigarettes; they now wish to remove these as they believe that people will choose the variants which show less tar etc and perceive these as safer!
I'm sorry but we are not stupid and anyway, those yields were ridiculous anyway as I would imagine that not a single person smokes a cigarette in the same way those standardized smoking machines 'smoke' the cigarettes they are testing.
Adult smokers are denied access to a reduced harm product, why? Please do not use the "oh its for the children" excuse and insult my intelligence.
I used Swedish snus to quit a 20 year smoking habit 6 years ago, yet I cannot legally purchase snus in the UK. I have to fly to Sweden lining the pockets of the Swedish government, taxi drivers, bars and restaurants in Sweden and the airlines who fly there.
I love Sweden but that's money which could be better spent at home if I could legally buy Swedish snus in the UK.
What I want to know is why are adults in the UK (and the rest of the EU) not given access to a reduced harm tobacco product which is scientifically proven to be 99% safer for smokers than cigarettes?
Also, why are the EU and the UK government happy to allow cigarettes, which will kill people, to be sold without a PROVEN reduced harm alternative? Smoking cessation products etc did not work for me and have not worked for the majority of people.
If an adult wants to quit smoking but continue to use tobacco then they have every right to be allowed access to reduced harm products, it is their choice not that of the EU or the UK government.
I implore you to read the Royal College of Physicians own material on smoking harm reduction and fight for the ban on Swedish snus to be lifted.
Write to your MP, your MEP, point them to the evidence, do not give in, force them to address this issue!
There is enough euroskeptism in the UK, with the impending referendum on EU membership, give your MP another reason to think about the UK's membership of the EU.
Even if you are not in the UK and are reading this, but are an oppressed EU citizen, question those in authority, do note take their attempts to fob you off, remember, THEY WORK FOR YOU! SO MAKE THEM!
This article is brought to you by Roda Lacket white portion snus and Estrella beer. If you ask Moe nicely enough, he might sell you some Roda at the SnusCentral.com snus shop. Use the code, ADAM1 and.... you won't get a discount ;-)
I will be back soon so good afternoon, good evening and good night.
Reporting from the UK and Spain for SnusCENTRAL.org