Snus is enjoying growing popularity around the world, especially among young people. In Austria, for example, in 2015 less than 1 percent of the population consumed daily or occasionally mouth tobacco, which originally came from Sweden – also known as oral tobacco. 5 years later it was already around 2 percent with an upward trend. In Sweden, too, the proportion of snus consumers has increased significantly in recent years, although the proportion of smokers in the population there has decreased over the same period.
Membership in the Snus Club
In Switzerland, where the possession and, since 2019, the sale of snus are permitted, oral tobacco was probably first introduced by Scandinavian athletes who brought it to events. The Snus Club was soon founded, which itself offers information about snus and the product in numerous variants for purchase via its Internet shop: At Snus Club you can find your favorite brands via direct mail and you can join an active community of other snus lovers. But what is snus?
Contents and effects of snus
The question “What is snus” is quickly explained. Snus is usually a mix of tobacco containing nicotine, salts, water, humectants, flavors and buffers. The mixture is usually portioned in typical bags or sold loose in a can. Small pieces or sachets are placed behind the upper or lower lip for consumption so that the saliva can dissolve the ingredients. The salts promote absorption into the bloodstream via the oral mucosa. Ultimately, the reward center in the brain is stimulated by the nicotine, which is perceived as pleasant.
Possible side effects can be mucous membrane diseases, bad breath, dental diseases, headaches and digestive disorders. Snus is not normally chewed. Therefore, the substance is not referred to as chewing tobacco, but as oral tobacco. When used correctly, snus is easily removed after 15 to 60 minutes by lifting the upper lip.
Distribution of snus in Europe
Snus has been consumed in Sweden for over 200 years. However, despite its significant and growing market share across Europe, snus can only be marketed commercially within the EU in Sweden and Switzerland. Although the distribution of snus is forbidden in Germany, the private consumption of oral tobacco is not punishable. Therefore, a purchase in Switzerland, for example, via an online shop would be legal from the age of 18.
Is snus use harmful?
Many consumers find snus to be less harmful to their health than smoking or smoking cessation supplements and as a way to help smokers quit. Because the damage caused by combustion products of tobacco when smoking, such as lung cancer, does not show up when enjoying snus. However, smokeless tobacco products such as snus also release nicotine when consumed and can be just as addictive as cigarettes.
Swedish study shows significantly lower risks for snus than for smoking
In a recent study, epidemiologist and medical statistician Dr. Peter Lee the potential of the low-risk tobacco product snus in reducing the impact of tobacco-related disease and death in Europe. Lee concludes that snus is at least 95% safer to use than smoking.
Analysis by Swedish snus researcher Lars Ramstrom further shows that if snus were made available in Europe, where distribution is currently banned except for Sweden and Switzerland, up to 320,000 premature male deaths per year could be avoided. The availability of snus in Sweden has led to a decrease in smoking and smoking-related diseases.
Snus reduces tobacco-related mortality
The Eurobarometer survey also found that only 5% of Swedes smoke every day, compared to the European average of 24%. Accordingly, Swedish men have the lowest tobacco-related mortality rate in Europe at 152 per 100,000, compared to the European average of 373 per 100,000.
While 46% of smoking-related deaths are due to respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia, there is no evidence that snus consumption increases the risk of these diseases. Snus also does not appear to increase the risk of other smoking-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke and a number of cancers.
Snus changes smoking habits
In addition, the public health benefits of snus over cigarettes are not only much lower. The role of snus in both smoking initiation and cessation is a key element in tackling the root cause of tobacco-related diseases caused by cigarettes. However, current European legislation does not allow snus to be marketed in any European country except Sweden and Switzerland.
Legal disputes against the distribution ban on snus
What is snus? UK consumer group New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) is calling for the legalization of snus due to strong evidence of its potentially life-saving benefits and has joined a legal battle in European courts against the ban on oral tobacco. Gerry Stimson, Chairman of the NNA, said: “Snus is a tobacco product that has consistently been shown to be less harmful to health than cigarettes. The ban on snus limits smokers’ choices for safer alternatives and has significant negative public health implications.”