by Carl V Phillips
A few days ago, I mentioned (buried in a longer analysis of another topic) Brad Rodu’s post that reported an estimate of the additional smoking in Finland caused by the EU snus ban. A recent news article (h/t SnusCentral; note that I have not been able to find a more complete source for the results that are reported) reports that personal importation of snus into Finland has increased remarkably in the last year. This is seriously good news for THR in more ways than one.
The obvious good news is that this suggests that more THR is happening. While this does not affect the results that Rodu reported on (they were based on the reduced decrease in the smoking rate after the snus ban hit Finland in 1995, as compared to Sweden, as observed in the past), it might change the future. It also suggests that perhaps people are actively engaging in THR switching, rather than just continuing established snus use (which would still be good if that were all it was, of course, since the alternative for many would be switching to the legal alternative, cigarettes). The trend suggests that there might be new users who are choosing snus over cigarettes, or that some of those who switched to smoking are switching back.
It is possible that the personal imports are just replacing existing black market sales, of course, or “imports” from Finland’s semi-autonomous island of Aland (a port of call for many ferries) where snus sales remain legal [correction: it is actually on the ferries themselves where the sales are legal — see comment]. But the article does mention (without statistics) that snus use decreased after the ban but is increasing again, and that personal cigarette imports are decreasing. Assuming “carton” in the story means one tin of snus, the reported volume of these imports would allow about 1% of the Finnish population to be regular snus users, and almost a third of that is the increase over the last year. Not as impressive as the THR in Sweden, obviously, but it is still good news compared to nothing at all.
Additional good news can be found in the grousing of the Finnish official who is quoted, who notes that only imports for personal use are legal. The article reported that 40% of those importing snus admitted to the researchers they were bringing it in for others. This suggests a willingness to flout this terrible and unethical law, which bodes well for people facing THR bans elsewhere.