Gerry Stimson, chair of the NNA, writes: “Snus is a popular and effective harm reduction product. But the sale of snus is banned in the EU, except in Sweden. The TPD was bad for e-cigarettes, but worse for snus. The EU continued with the ban despite huge evidence for the safety and impact of snus, and despite the overwhelming view of consumers who told the EC that the snus ban should be lifted.”
In his press release, Stimson lays out the simple facts that snus is a popular and effective harm reduction product, and that it has driven Sweden and Norway to achieve the lowest rates of lung cancer in Europe.
“We will tell the court that the ban is harmful to health and that UK smokers deserve a better deal – the snus ban kills,” Gerry continues. “Everyone was taken by surprise by the way millions of smokers flocked to e-cigarettes to help them cut down or stop smoking. Yet nine million people in the UK continue to smoke and proven alternatives like snus should be available to help those who want to switch away from cigarettes. When smokers have the widest possible choice of reduced risk products it increases the likelihood of their finding an option that works for them.”
The legal case will first be put to the UK High Court on Thursday 26th January. Should the judges agree there is a case to answer, the matter will be referred to the European Court of Justice.
The NNA’s view reflects the weight of consumer opinion in the EU that is overwhelmingly in favour of lifting the ban on snus: according to evidence from the European Commission itself some 83% of the 70,925 who responded to the consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive wanted the ban removed.
NNA's Facts About Snus
Is snus an appropriate and acceptable harm reduction product?
Snus fulfils the criteria for a tobacco harm reduction product. It is a low risk way of using nicotine and delivers acceptable doses to those who use it. In countries in which it is allowed it is popular and has contributed to declines in smoking and smoking related diseases.
What is snus?
Snus is a moist, smokeless powdered tobacco. It is sold as a loose powder or pre-packaged in a small sachet (a bit like a mini tea bag). It contains ground tobacco, salt and may contain food-grade smoke aroma flavourings, such as citrus, bergamot, juniper, herb or floral flavours. Most Scandinavian snus is produced in Sweden where it is regulated as food under the Swedish Food Act. The nicotine content varies among brands.
How does snus differ from other oral tobaccos?
Snus is a smokeless tobacco. Unlike some other smokeless tobacco types, Swedish snus is not fermented and is pasteurised, which inhibits the growth of bacteria that help the formation of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (an important group of carcinogens in tobacco products). Snus is refrigerated in order to inhibit the growth of toxins.
How is snus used?
Snus is placed between the upper lip and gum. The nicotine is released into the saliva, with the rate of release affected by the amount of saliva. New users experiment (titrate) to find the best rate of nicotine release. http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Snus
Is there a quality standard for snus?
The Gothiatek standard, a voluntary quality standard for snus products, has been introduced. This has maximum levels for constituents, including nitrosamines, metals, nitrite, agrochemicals, mycotoxins and aldehydes.
Is snus safe and are there any long-term health effects?
Recent reviews suggest that snus is considered by scientists as 95%, and possibly closer to 99%, less risky than smoking.
Snus poses no respiratory risk. Respiratory diseases, predominantly lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia account for 46% of deaths due to smoking, according to the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, 2008.
Individual studies can produce contradictory findings so evidence must be sought from overviews of key studies and pooled results. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis examined the evidence relating to snus and health across six major Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish studies, up to 2010. This concludes that the evidence provides scant support for any major adverse health effects of snus: snus is not associated with cancers of the oropharynx, oesophagus, pancreas, or heart disease or strokes. The author concludes that compared with smoking snus poses about 1% of the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21163315
Snus and lung cancer in Sweden
The rise in the use of snus has resulted in Sweden having the lowest lung cancer mortality and tobacco-related mortality in Europe. It is estimated if the Swedish smoking prevalence was extrapolated to the rest of the EU, there would be a 54% reduction of male mortality from lung cancer. (Rodu, Brad and Philip Cole. 2009. “Lung Cancer Mortality: Comparing Sweden with Other Countries in the European Union.” Scandinavian journal of public health 37(5):481–86.)
Health effects of switching to snus
Given the lower risk profile for snus it has been calculated that the life expectancy of smokers who switch from smoking to snus is little different to the life expectancy of those who stop smoking altogether. The authors of this study conclude that: ’Individual smokers who switched to snus instead of continuing to smoke and new tobacco users who only used snus rather than smoking would achieve large health gains compared with smokers’.
This finding is confirmed by a recent analysis of six major studies which found that switching from smoking to snus is associated with major reductions in morbidity and that switching to snus appears to have much the same reduced health risk as quitting smoking. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/23454227
Does snus pose a risk to others?
Snus poses no risk to others, such as work colleagues and family members as there is no combustion and consequently no ’second hand’ smoke and no risk of fire.
Snus and stopping smoking
Snus is now the most popular product for smokers in Sweden and Norway when they wish to stop smoking and the success rate is higher when using snus than when using NRT products. https://academic.oup.com/ntr/article/14/10/1221/1749452/Association-Between-Willingness-to-Use-Snus-to
Has snus replaced smoking in Sweden and Norway?
Consumers in both Sweden and Norway are choosing to use snus rather than to smoke. There has been a major increase in the use of snus and a concomitant decline in the smoking of tobacco.
In Sweden, snus overtook cigarettes in 1996; In Norway the rise of snus and the decline in smoking resulted in male use of snus overtaking cigarettes by 2006. This despite snus use in Sweden and Norway being developed in a context where active promotion of the product was banned and health authorities warned smokers against snus use.
What are the levels of smoking in Sweden?
The prevalence of smoking in Sweden is 11% and Sweden now has the lowest prevalence of smoking in the EU. Compare this with 22% for the UK (data on ‘current smoking’ in 2014 from the Eurobarometer Report No 419, p 11).
‘Daily smoking’ is even lower in Sweden at 8% compared with 19% in the UK in 2014.
Smoking is fast disappearing in some groups of Swedish men: in the 30 to 44 year age group only 5% are daily smokers, less than a quarter of the level in the UK men.
How does the use of snus reduce smoking?
Snus is used to avoid the uptake of smoking, to stop smoking, and to reduce smoking. The decline in Sweden and Norway has come about both by smokers using snus to avoid smoking, and by the fact that younger nicotine users are choosing to use snus rather than to smoke, and that the uptake of snus does not lead to tobacco smoking.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4245639/
Overall in Sweden and Norway the total level of tobacco use has remained stable or slightly declined – what is important is that there has been a major shift away from smoking.
Snus can therefore be considered protective against smoking.
Why is snus banned in the UK and the EU?
Tobacco products for oral use, except those intended to be smoked or chewed, have been banned in the EU since 1992. As Swedish snus is neither smoked nor chewed, it is prohibited for sale. Upon Sweden’s entry into the EU in 1995, the country was granted a permanent exemption from the sales ban on snus. The EU ban was reaffirmed in the 2001 and 2014 Tobacco Products Directives.
Finally, what do the Royal College of Physicians, Tobacco Advisory Group say?
‘The availability and use of an oral tobacco product known as snus in Sweden, documented in more detail in our 2007 report…demonstrates proof of the concept that a substantial proportion of smokers will, given the availability of a socially acceptable and affordable consumer alternative offering a lower hazard to health, switch from smoked tobacco to the alternative product. Particularly among men, the availability of snus as a substitute for smoking has helped to reduce the prevalence of smoking in Sweden, which is now by far the lowest in Europe…Trends in snus use in Norway are similar to, and perhaps stronger than, those in Sweden, and there the use of snus is strongly associated with quitting smoking.’
Royal College of Physicians, Tobacco Advisory Group (2016). Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction.