A change in Norwegian law requiring all tobacco products to be given neutral packaging is set to be tested in court.
That includes snus, a moist powder tobacco product related to dry snuff that is popular in Norway and Sweden. The product is consumed by placing under the upper lip for extended periods.
The law, which came in to effect on July 1st this year, means that packaging of snus, as well as of cigarettes, must now be neutral.
All tobacco companies must introduce neutral packaging on their products by July 1st 2018, the final deadline for doing so after the new law was introduced.
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But the Swedish company wants a temporary injunction to be taken out over snus products, reports news agency NTB.
Swedish Match will meet representatives from Norwegian authorities in court on Monday over the issue.
The company claims that the requirement set down by the Norwegian government is in breach of EEC free trade rules, and that the deadline for the new packaging must therefore be delayed until the EEC issue has been resolved by an as-yet undefined trial.
“Regulation that constitutes such a strong intervention as standardised packaging is not in proportion to the possible health risks associated with snus,” Swedish Match spokesperson Patrik Hildingsson told newspaper VG earlier this year.
Norways's minister for health Bent Høie told the newspaper that he was not surprised by lawsuits from tobacco companies in the wake of the regulation introduced on July 1st.
“They did it in Australia, France and the United Kingdom, and lost everywhere,” Høie told VG.
The general secretary of the Norwegian Cancer Society (Kreftforeningen) said that she was, like Høie, unsurprised at the decision of tobacco companies to pursue legal options.
“This is a well-known tactic used to challenge a political initiative to ensure fewer young people start using snus,” Anne Lise Ryel said in a press statement.
The number of young people smoking has reduced significantly over the last ten years, while the used of snus has increased, according to NTB's report.
One third of young men and just under a quarter of young women currently used the product, according to the report, while over 10,000 young people start using it each year.
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