Dispatch: 60 Minutes on Snus

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CBS’s 60 Minutes devoted a segment to the smokeless tobacco product snus as a possible method of tobacco harm reduction last night.

“They accurately described the facts about smokeless tobacco as a harm reduction method: that it’s a substance that addicted smokers can use to get nicotine without inhaling the deadly products of combustion in cigarette smoke,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “Dr. Karl Fagerstrom appeared on the segment describing the Swedish experience with snus. Swedish men in particular have switched from smoking to snus with resultant dramatic declines in smoking-related disease.”

Dr. Fagerstrom will be a member of a panel organized by ACSH, which will present data on harm reduction at an international meeting in Turin in July. ACSH staffers were especially pleased with his cogent quote, “Addiction is a problem, but it’s less of a problem than lung cancer.”

Dr. Ross continues, “Unfortunately, the makers of snus are prevented by law in the U.S. from telling addicted smokers about the benefits of the product in helping them to quit; therefore, tobacco companies making smokeless tobacco have to market it as a dual-use product -- e.g., by highlighting the ability of smokers to use smokeless tobacco when they cannot smoke, such as in airplanes or meetings. We, however, are not bound by that proscription.”

“The 60 Minutes segment really focused only on snus,” says Dr. Whelan. “It’s definitely good to get that message out, but it also seemed to limit the story, because the revolution that is occurring in terms of people switching from cigarettes to clean nicotine delivery is far more than just snus. Still, this is definitely a move in the right direction, and it probably opened the eyes of a lot of people.”