We may not sell smokeless tobacco, but there is no doubt that it is a fantastic product that has saved the lives of thousands of ex-Swedish smokers.
The country has the lowest rates of lung cancer in Europe – simply because many of its smokers have switched to safer forms of tobacco use.
How safe is it?
According to Joel Nitzkin, Chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force for the American Association of Public Health Physicians:
the literature on snus [one of the safest forms of smokeless tobacco], which is evaluated on our website, basically shows that in the best of the epidemiological studies available today snus do not increase any cause of death. In other words, if there is a health hazard from snus it is smaller than can be measured with these studies.
But Glaxosmithkline states:
A lot of people believe that taking smokeless tobacco is safer than smoking cigarettes. This is not true.
Unfortunately, that’s just not backed up by evidence. In fact, the country which uses the most smokeless tobacco has the lowest lung cancer rates in Europe.
So why do GSK oppose smokeless tobacco?
Here’s one possibility:
The harm in smoking is caused by combustion, rather than by the ingredients in which we smoke – which is why there is no point in switching to herbal cigarettes.
When taking up products like Snus, the risk to people’s health decreases so much that the incentive to quitting is hugely decreased.
That threatens companies selling NRT products. NRT products have a long term success rate (measured at one year) of around 5%. That guarantees a nice recurring market for pharmaceutical companies like GSK, especially as they pay money to the anti-smoking groups which recommend NRT products over cold turkey (which some studies show is a more effective way of quitting).
So if people do not switch to smokeless tobacco, they will continue trying to quit and they will continue to do so by using pharmaceutical products.
And they will also continue to die of avoidable smoking diseases.