Snus use in Norway.

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Snus is a form of smokeless tobacco that is widely used – primarily by men – in Sweden. It is characterized by being relatively low in toxins but delivers about as much nicotine as a cigarette. It is not harmless (causes gum erosion, and pancreatic cancer) but has been estimated to be about 90% less harmful than smoking cigarettes (no lung cancer, oral cancer, or chest diseases).

In Sweden more men now use snus on a daily basis than smoke, and about a quarter of Swedish men who quit smoking did so by switching to snus. Consequently Sweden is just about the only country in the world in which it is consistent that fewer men smoke than women. As I’ve previously discussed, multinational tobacco companies are now test-marketing their own snus products, including in then US. However, some doubt remains as to whether this product (which is banned in the European Union, Australia and New Zealand) could become popular in another country.

A report has just been published on tobacco use in Norway (which is not a member of the EU), which shows a fairly dramatic increase in snus use among young men.
http://www.shdir.no/publikasjoner/faktahefter/tall_om_tobakk_1973_2006_13509

This report found that in the period 2004-6 10% of men used snus on a daily basis and 7% on an occasional basis (compared to 7% and 6% in 2001-3). However, the proportion of users is much higher in young men, with 17% using daily and 17% occasionally in the 16-24 age group. Overall the proportion of daily snus users among men aged 16-44 has more than quadrupled from 1985 to 2006. It remains to be seen what the effects of this expansion of snus use is on smoking rates and health effects. Figure 24 in the report shows that of 631 men who successfully quit smoking during the period 1990-2006 and were surveyed in 2004-6, 17% quit smoking by using snus – a proportion equal to the number who quit by using the nicotine gum (10%), patch (4%) and Zyban (3%) added together. Most Norwegan male ex-smokers quit without any assistance, and 1% used the national telephone helpline. This suggests that a meaningful proportion of men are quitting smoking by switching to snus in Norway. Clearly no tobacco use is preferable to use of smokeless tobacco, and approved medicines are preferable as smoking cessation aids. But anything that gets people to quit smoking has the potential to reduce the harm to health in then population.

If you are interested in learning more about snus, and the effects it has had on smoking in Sweden, click on this link: http://www.tobaccoprogram.org/staffarticles.htm, scroll down to the papers by Foulds and colleages (2003) on “The Effect of smokeless tobacco (snus) on smoking and public health in Sweden” and the paper by Ramstrom & Foulds (2006). These are both available as pdfs for free from this site.
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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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