Is smoking popular in Norway

Oral tobacco snus: The better evil of the tobacco industry could prevent over 300,000 deaths in Europe

Snus: The better evil of the tobacco industry could prevent over 300,000 deaths in Europe

Oral tobacco snus is 95 percent less cancerous than smoking. This is shown by studies from Norway. But it is controversial that oral tobacco would also replace cigarettes in Switzerland.

Tobacco sachets are less harmful than smoldering stems. That is known. The latest figures presented at the Global Forum for Nicotine (GFN) meeting in Warsaw now reinforce the argument for snus as a nicotine alternative.

Snus is an oral tobacco that is particularly widespread in Norway and Sweden. The small bags of tobacco and salt are sold in cans and placed behind the upper or lower lip. The snus stays there for up to an hour, depending on the type. It is very common in the ice hockey scene - the majority of players use tobacco as a stimulant. The nicotine reaches the bloodstream directly through the oral mucosa, it increases the pulse, reduces stress and wakes you up - but also addictive, which does not necessarily correspond to the sporting spirit.

The researchers and analysts at the Global Forum on Nicotine, on the other hand, find almost nothing but positive words about snus. Peter Lee, epidemiologist and medical statistician, provided figures at the GFN: According to him, snus is 95% safer than cigarettes in terms of cancer risk.

The Swedish snus researcher Lars Ramstäm has analyzed what would happen if snus were available across Europe. Snus is having a tough time in Europe at the moment, sales are banned everywhere - except Sweden. Nevertheless, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG), 0.5 percent of the population consume oral tobacco. Ramstäm thinks there should be more. He has calculated that around 320,000 deaths could be prevented if all of Europe had a similar level of snus consumption as Sweden, and more importantly, such a low level of cigarette consumption.

Long tradition in Sweden

Oral tobacco is more popular than cigarette in Sweden. There are far fewer smokers there and fewer related illnesses. According to the Eurobarometer, a public opinion poll in Europe, only 5 percent of all Swedes smoke every day. For the average European it is 24 percent, in Switzerland 23.1 percent of men and 17.9 percent of women smoke every day. According to the GFN, Swedish men die from tobacco only half as often as in Europe.

But the BAG does not believe in the potential of the alternative. The high level of snus consumption has something to do with Sweden's tradition: "In Sweden snus is mainly consumed for historical reasons and the prices for cigarettes are high," says spokesman Adrien Kay. In addition, in other countries where snus is legal, it has not been observed that people are switching from cigarettes to snus.

But the proponents continue to praise the advantages: Even among all smokeless tobacco types (such as chewing tobacco, snuff), snus has the smallest or no risk of lung and cardiovascular diseases. Another advantage is that snus can wean the smoking habit, according to the GFN.

The FOPH is also not convinced of the health aspect: «Snus contains a large number of harmful substances, including 28 carcinogenic substances. There is evidence that snus can cause esophageal cancer and increases mortality from cardiovascular disease, ”said Kay. It is misleading to speak of advantages. This is also the opinion of Markus Meury, media spokesman for Addiction Switzerland: "There is a proven risk of cancer, especially in the pancreas and, depending on the study, the oral cavity." In addition, the majority of consumers become addicted to nicotine.

7 million smoking deaths per year

The «tobacco epidemic» is on one of the greatest threats to public health. More than 7 million people worldwide die each year as a result of tobacco consumption. There are currently around 1 billion smokers, 80 percent of whom live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related diseases is greatest.

Is the ban coming down in Europe?

But the Europe-wide ban is under attack. The New Nicotine Alliance NNA is applying for legalization as it considers snus a life-saving alternative to cigarettes. The NNA is a UK consumer group that supports less dangerous nicotine products. She is taking action against the ban at the European Court of Justice. Gerry Stimson, chairman of the NNA, says: "A ban gives smokers fewer options for healthier alternatives."

Addiction Switzerland would neither approve nor reject legalization. Meury thinks it is advisable for smokers to switch to snus. But he sees a danger for young people with legalization - that of the gateway drug: "Many young people first start with snus or the e-cigarette and then switch to the conventional cigarette," he says. The protection of minors is hardly guaranteed, because in some cantons there is no age for such nicotine products.

In 2019, Parliament will decide on the approval of snus under the Tobacco Products Act.