The study titled “Smokers’ perceptions of risks and harm from snus relative to cigarettes: A latent profile analysis study”, analysed the responses of 256 smokers in relation to their perceptions about the risks of developing lung cancer, heart disease and oral cancer when using snus versus cigarettes.
Sadly, only about 17% accurately stated that snus has lower risks for lung cancer, with 45% incorrectly saying that snus was equally or more harmful for all three disease-risks, and 38% saying that snus carried increased risks for oral cancer only.
The relative health benefits of switching to snus
Snus has not only led to Sweden boasting the lowest smoking rates in Europe, but more importantly, also to reporting the lowest rates of lung cancer across the continent.
Snus is a moist powder tobacco product that is placed under the upper lip for extended periods. It is mostly popular in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, where it is legal and considered an effective harm reduction product. In fact, snus has not only led to Sweden boasting the lowest smoking rates in Europe, but more importantly, also to reporting the lowest rates of lung cancer across the continent.
Lead researcher of the Rutgers University study Olivia Wackowski, said that unfortunately the situation in the US is different. “These findings continue to suggest that the public does not understand that combustion escalates the health risks in tobacco products that are smoked, making them more harmful than non-combusted smokeless tobacco on a continuum of risk.”
The results “are also significant given that use of Scandinavian snus has not been clearly associated with oral cancer, unlike smoking, which poses a significant risk for oral cancer,” she added.
Sweden asked to share its success story
Meanwhile, in 2017, eighteen public health experts, amongst whom Clive Bates, had written a letter to Mr Frans Timmerman, the EU’s Commissioner for Better Regulation, drawing his attention to the detrimental EU ban on snus. Additionally, the same experts had written to the Government of Sweden, asking them to acknowledge and report the success they have achieved locally since endorsing snus for harm reduction, in the hope that this would decrease the type of misinformation reported by the US study.
“One of the more puzzling things about snus is the reluctance of Sweden’s government to claim credit for what is by any standards an extraordinary public health achievement. So here I write to the relevant ministers requesting that they acknowledge Sweden’s success, show some leadership and promote the concept of tobacco harm reduction,” wrote renowned public health expert Clive Bates at the time.