The truth about snus health effects

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While speaking to over 30 University of North Carolina Wilmington students, Paul Turner Jr., director of the N.C. Spit Tobacco Education Program and former director of the CDC’s oral health division, haphazardly groups various smokeless nicotine products, including dip, snuff and snus, into one category — harmful to human health — despite each having its own risk profile.

As part of his program, Turner travels to various schools and points out the health risks associated with dipping or chewing. While also stopping in to chat with dentists and health workers, he cautions them about the rise in smokeless tobacco usage and other new products, including dissolvable tobacco. Clearly, Mr. Turner must be oblivious to a recent study from the Centre of Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD) demonstrating that the increased use of snus in Sweden is actually associated with a drop in the number of the country’s smokers. “In fact, Sweden has both the highest fraction of snus users, and the lowest level of tobacco-related diseases in Europe. These facts are not due to coincidence,” says Dr. Ross.

So how can Turner still have the gall to mislead the public by saying that “as many as nine thousand people a year die because they use smokeless tobacco,” wonders ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “His superficial conflation of modern snus-type smokeless tobacco products with other products, such as dip, chaw and spit, is irresponsible and based on no evidence,” fumes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “If people like Mr. Turner would stop misleading the American public, especially smokers, about the alleged risk of snus and would start telling them the truth — that snus can be helpful in reducing the risk of death by up to 99 percent — then our disease rates from smoking might approach Sweden’s. But it seems that Mr. Turner and other large nonprofits seem to be addicted to the financing from those who market ineffective nicotine replacement therapies rather than devoted to improving public health.”