'We Should Not Delay in Allowing Snus to Compete'


Three new articles in The Lancet reinforce the case for promoting smokeless tobacco as a less hazardous alternative to cigarettes.

A 26-year study of about 126,000 Swedish construction workers, none of whom had ever smoked, found that users of snus (Scandinavian moist snuff) were no more likely than nonusers to get oral cancer or lung cancer. Their rate of pancreatic cancer was twice as high but still substantially lower than the rate among construction workers who smoked. More important, lung cancer accounts for many more smoking-related deaths than pancreatic cancer. Notably, oral cancer, which long has been considered the most serious risk from smokeless tobacco, was not associated with snus use in this study or in earlier research involving Swedes, possibly because Scandinavian-style snuff (which is now available in the U.S.) has lower levels of carcinogens than the traditional American variety.

In another study, Australian researchers calculate that smokers who switch from cigarettes to snus would get almost the same health benefit as smokers who give up tobacco entirely. They find "little difference in health-adjusted life expectancy between smokers who quit all tobacco and smokers who switch to snus." In their analysis, the advantage for quitters over switchers was somewhere between one and five months. "Relaxing current restrictions on the sale of snus is more likely to produce a net benefit than harm," they conclude, "with the size of the benefit dependent on how many inveterate smokers switch to snus."

In an accompanying commentary (available only to subscribers), two prominent American tobacco researchers, Jonathan Foulds and Lynn Kozlowski, agree:

The Lancet papers published today, when added to mounting epidemiological evidence, indicate that we should not delay in allowing snus to compete with cigarettes for market share, and we should be prepared to accurately inform smokers about the relative risks of cigarettes, snus, and approved smoking-cessation medications. In light of all the available evidence, the banning or exaggerated opposition to snus in cigarette-rife environments is not sound public-health policy.

One reason for my interest in the harm-reducing potential of smokeless tobacco is that it pits the "public health" logic of the anti-smoking movement against its blind hatred of everything associated with Nicotiana tabacum. Too many activists and public officials have chosen to misrepresent the relative risks of different tobacco products, discouraging choices that would reduce morbidity and mortality, which is supposedly their goal. In the face of such dishonesty and emotionalism, I'm glad to see that data can still make a difference.

[Thanks to Brad Rodu, who wrote the book on switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco, for passing along the articles.]

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  1. Right now using equal parts skruf stark and skruf tranbar...haven't had a cigarette in 7 months... hear hear!!

  2. This reminds me of the abstinence vs. contraceptive conflict. While it may benefit people's health and society to promote snus as an alternative to smoking, it is considered outright objectionable to promote the use of a product that is associated with an undesirable behavior. Funny how people who advocate contraceptive-centered sex education because abstinence education doesn't work are going to be the same ones opposed to promoting alternatives to smoking rather than simply abstaining.

  3. Well, chewing tobacco causes people to spit...which is a disgusting habit! What gives chawers the right to hurl their germy, stained spit onto the ground where I - or MY CHILDREN - might put the soles of our shoes???

  4. Oh, and snus. SNUS. Seriously - think of a new name.

  5. Well, chewing tobacco causes people to spit...which is a disgusting habit! What gives chawers the right to hurl their germy, stained spit onto the ground where I - or MY CHILDREN - might put the soles of our shoes???

    The polite of us use a spit cup/can/bottle, just like polite smokers use ashtrays, or in the absence of an ashtray, a storm drain or street gutter.

  6. btw, Snus is pronounced snoose. Rhymes with moose.

  7. Snus = less deadly
    Snusnu = more deadly

  8. The polite of us use a spit cup/can/bottle, just like polite smokers use ashtrays, or in the absence of an ashtray, a storm drain or street gutter.

    And people can always wear those japanese wooden sandal things with the two wooden thingies that you stand on. That should keep your feet safely up out of the rivers of Snus-juice.

  9. lunchstealer wins the thread.

  10. lunchsteeler,
    Shouldn't that be
    Sunnunu = more deadly ?

  11. And if second-hand smoke is as much a concern as folks claim, smokeless tobacco should interest them even more as a preferable alternative to smoking.

  12. I had Snusnu...

  13. Pattens! They'll be all the rage....again.

  14. I never thought I would go this way but I always really, really hoped.

  15. "Oh geeze."

    What are you, gay?

  16. Snus is spitless unless you have some sort of sort of excessive salivation disorder.

  17. If it's spitless then what's the point? Any smokeless tobacco consumption that doesn't conspicuously stimulate loogie production is a total waste of time and an insult to the y-chromosome.

  18. Snus? What's snus?

    Seriously: What is it about Scandinavian snuff that makes it less carcinogenic than American snuff? Would smoked snus be less dangerous than smoked American tobacco?

    1. Specifically, it's the way it's produced... it is steam cured rather than fire cured. This leads to a drastically lower rate of carcinogens produced from the partial anearobic heating of proteins.

      Wouldn't know about smoking it though, it's not supposed to be consumed that way.

  19. Just curious, what's the social standing of snus in its native lands? Is it associated with people who enjoy whatever the Scandinavian equivalent of NASCAR is, like smokeless tobacco in America?

  20. IIRC: there really isn't a stigma (that I can remember).

    or - less of a stigma than here. just no hysteria.

  21. Great news!

  22. And speaking of things Scandahoovian, today is Norwegian Independence Day. As part of the celebration High School seniors called Russ will be parading, partying, and probably dipping snus. But sadly the yutes have lost the taste for lutefisk.

  23. Great idea, Jacob! But you'll get more attention if you can come up with a way for the Suns to compete.

  24. To answer Larry's question - the difference is that Snus is a steam-cured tobacco, unlike American 'snuff', which utilizes fire-cured/flue-cured tobacco. The production of nitrosamines (a major carcinogenic component of tobacco products) is significantly reduced in Snus. Personally, I don't know of anyone who smokes snuff, so I'm not sure whether using Snus would be less hazardous under those circumstances. 🙂


  25. But sadly the yutes have lost the taste for lutefisk.

    Good for de yutes, on account of eww.

  26. Snus? What's snus? - Larry

    Not much. What snus with youse?


  27. There?s been a turnaround in public perception of smokeless tobacco in Scandinavia. Just a few years back, it was very much the domain of the NASCAR-ites (STCC). But with data on the relative risks becoming clearer, snus has gentrified. 20% of male and 5% of Swedish female doctors use snus.

  28. Smokeless tobacco in any form (dip, chew or snuff) is NOT a safe alternative to smoking and SNUS is NOT a safe alternative to dip, chew or snuff. It's just as difficult to quit THIS product. As a former 16+ years smokeless addict I know how difficult it can be to quit.

    http://www.killthecan.org/ - A resource to quit chewing tobacco.

    1. chewie, you're absolutely wrong. Smokeless tobacco IS a safer alternative to smoking, and snus is the least dangerous of smokeless tobacco. Your rantings and misinformation show us just what kind of person you really are. Educate yourself before you speak.

  29. Snus actually tastes pretty good, if you're into that kind of thing. Not really much spit. But I guess it's really only good for people who are down with being addicted to nicotine.

    Chewie...did you read the article?

  30. A search for "snus" on the website chewie links to produces zero results. Apparently, he neither reads nor researches before posting.

  31. This is a ridiculous comment page. As a snus user, I want to try and clear up a couple of misconceptions that I'm reading:
    1. Snus is not "chaw". It is not chewed in the mouth, it is placed between the upper lip and gum.
    2. It is spitless. There will be no running rivers of snus juice.
    3. It is steam cured, not fire cured and regulated by the Swedish government as a food product. This makes it up to 98% safer than other forms of tobacco.
    4. Don't smoke it. That would be counter productive. The fact that you do not inhale it, coupled with regulation and Swedish curing methods make it safe.

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