In the media (including here at POLITICO Towers), we love to use the word “Big” to describe a major industry — Big Tech, Big Pharma (or, even more terrifying, Big Farmer) and, of course, Big Tobacco.
It can’t be easy for Big Tobacco these days (to minimize the deadly impact of tobacco, just picture a sad executive forced to wear a giant cigarette costume, wandering around a shopping mall trying to sell his wares and being kicked by teenagers). Anyway, as you’ll have read in Brussels Playbook, the Swedish daily Aftonbladet wrote about a leaked European Commission document that suggested those meddling Brussels Eurocrats planned to double taxes on snus, the popular-in-Scandinavia tobacco product. For those unfamiliar with snus, imagine taking some of the “juice” that has collected at the bottom of your kitchen bin and smearing it on your gums and teeth.
Many Swedes and others were furious at this potential infringement on their traditional way of life, until the Commission made clear that it had no intention of making such a move.
You can’t mention snus and the EU without reference to John Dalli, the former Maltese member of the Commission who was obliged to resign from his role overseeing health and consumer policy in the second Commission led by José Manuel Barroso (old-timers may remember Barroso II for such luminaries as charisma-vacuum Catherine Ashton, lobbying enthusiast Neelie Kroes, and Berlusconi’s bag-carrier Antonio Tajani).
Full disclosure: This publication’s predecessor published a magazine previewing Barroso II in which this author wrote that Dalli would be unlikely to “rock the boat.” He didn’t rock the boat, of course, but rather attempted to set it on fire.
Dalli did so much damage that he got the media to come up with a -gate suffix for him (Dalligate), which is no mean feat, after one of his aides allegedly tried to obtain a €60 million bribe from a Swedish tobacco company to reverse an EU ban on snus.
Dalli quit his EU post in October 2012, and claimed that Barroso forced him out after presenting him with a report from OLAF, the bloc’s anti-fraud office (and also the snowman in the film “Frozen”). Dalli also claimed bribery charges leveled against him were part of a “campaign” to smear him. “This is another fraud,” he told the Times of Malta last year.
Why Big Snus hasn’t snapped up Dalli for a senior lobbying position remains a mystery.