Titled, “Randomised clinical trial of snus versus medicinal nicotine among smokers interested in product switching,” the study was conducted by Dr. Dorothy Hatsukami and colleagues at the University of Minnesota and the Oregon Research Institute. It recruited some 400 smokers who wanted to switch to snus or nicotine gum, in order to quit smoking.
Additionally, the study subjects participated in counseling sessions using the NIH Clearing the Air Quit Smoking program, which features conventional quitting tips (“Take a deep breath, clean something, make a move, start a new hobby, splurge on a massage”). On completing the study, the participants were paid $360.
No significant success rate differences between snus and gum
On analysing the data gathered from the trial, the study authors found no significant differences between participants assigned to snus or nicotine gum. “The results showed no significant differences between those assigned to medicinal nicotine vs snus in amount of product use, levels of cotinine attained, the extent to which the product substituted for smoking and rates of avoidance of cigarettes or any nicotine containing products. Furthermore, there were no differences in suppression of withdrawal from cigarettes.”
A surprising finding was that the participants seemed to attain more satisfaction in using nicotine gum, “..nicotine gum users reported more satisfaction and psychological reward from the product.” However, long term results contradicted this finding as after 26 weeks 14.9% of the snus group were still using only snus, and 11.6% were using both snus and cigarettes, which was significantly higher than gum users (6.0% and 6.8% respectively).
Snus is a necessary NRT
On a post on his blog page, tobacco harm reduction Brad Rodu pointed out that this study did not yield any results that are cause for celebration. “This study is not cause for smoking cessation celebration. Six months after the trial started, only 5.1% of gum users and 2.6% of snus users had continuously quit smoking (the difference was not significant).”
However, he added, it quashes the argument that snus is not a necessary safer alternative. “The research does, however, demonstrate the fallacy of the claim that snus is unneeded because pharmaceutical nicotine is effective.”