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Camel Snus Smokeless Tobacco - What is it?

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2009 will see further expansion of new smokeless tobacco marketing in the United States, including the national launch of Camel Snus. So what is this product? Snus is a smokeless tobacco product that is very popular in Sweden. It has been used there for over 100 years and so there is reasonable epidemiological evidence on its health effects. Overall, Swedish snus appears to be much less harmful to health than cigarettes, and probably less harmful than other types of smokeless tobacco sold in the United States.
Some recent reports on the health effects of snus in Sweden can be found via the following links: http://sph.umdnj.edu/news/index.cfm?newsID=168
http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/pubs/brochure.aspx?e=234
The main characteristics of Swedish snus are that (a) it is an oral tobacco product that has relatively low levels of various toxins, as compared with traditional US smokeless products and (b) it delivers moderately high levels of nicotine to the user.

A recent study by researchers at University of Minnesotta found that Camel snus had levels of carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines that were much lower than for traditional smokeless products (I.e less than 2 micrograms per gram for Camel Snus, versus 8 for Copenhagen and 12 for Kodiak). Levels of other carcinogens were also lower in Camel and other snus products than other tradional smokeless products. For example, while the new snus products had levels of benzo(a)pyrene of around 3 micrograms/gram, tradional smokeless tobacco products all had levels above 30, and Kodiak Wintergreen had a level of 57.

Camel snus is marketed in metal tins kept refrigerated in stores. Each tin contains 15 small sachets which look a bit like small tea bags, each containing flavored tobacco. When placed under the top lip for about 30 minutes the snus releases nicotine which is absorbed into the blood stream. It is unclear whether the current snus products being marketed in the US deliver enough nicotine to satisfy cravings for a cigarette and potentially help smokers quit. The evidence from Sweden is clear that a large number of Swedish men have successfully quit smoking by switching to snus.

It remains to be seen how the product will be received in the United States. If you want to give up smoking and may need some pharmacological support, it makes much more sense to use FDA approved medicines than to use unproven products that contain carcinogens (albeit in small quantities). However, if you want to continue to enjoy tobacco but want to use a less harmful product, then switching from cigarettes to snus makes sense - but only if accompanied by cessation of smoking.

You can find out more about snus and other potentially less harmful tobacco products at: http://tobaccoproducts.org/index.php/Camel_Snus

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has tried any of these new types of tobacco product.
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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