The Corner

You Snus You Win

Jonathan, considering its source, that’s a surprisingly sensible article on snus (the Swedish form of snuff). I’ve been thinking of doing an article (any interest, Kathryn?) on this substance (which tastes horrible, in my view) for some time, not least because of profoundly ignorant comments such as those attributed by the New York Times to the doctor who works for the “Massachussetts Tobacco Control Program”. Snus is associated with some health risks (cardiovascular, principally, but far less so than in the case of cigarettes), but if, in his reference to oral cancer, that doctor is talking about snus, he is, quite simply, wrong. Snus is not allowed in the EU, except in Sweden, but even the notoriously persnickety bureaucrats in Brussels agreed that the warning that snus was carcinogenic could be dropped from its packaging.

The risk of oral cancer that comes with American forms of chewing tobacco seems to associated with the presence of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). For two decades now, Swedish snus has been required to have very low TSNA content, perhaps a twentieth of the level found in an American brand like Copenhagen. This probably explains why a long-term study of 135,000 Swedish men (published in the American Journal of Public Health back in 1994) found no increase in cancer risk. It looks as if the folks at the Massachussetts Tobacco Control Program need to do a little more homework.

The EU ban will be litigated before the EU Court of Justice starting in June, but overall the hitherto hostile attitude of health authorities towards chewing tobacco, Swedish or American, is yet another reminder that the anti-tobacco crusade is not about health, or money (except for the trial lawyers and their accomplices in state and federal government), but control.