A smokeless future: No news is good Snus?

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snus image from website http://reason.com/blog/2016/12/20/fda-safer-alternative-to-smoking-cant-ca

Photo credit: Fox News

Familiar with Snus? No? Not terribly surprising, as it has struggled to gain an appreciable foothold here in the States. For those unfamiliar, Snus are small packets of tobacco, like tiny little tea bags, that you place inside your upper lip. Think of dip, only without the mess, or the spitting. (Still sounds gross compared to vaping watermelon jolly rancher, but to each their own.)

If you have seen them you will perhaps have noticed they carry as many onerous warnings of death and destruction as cigarettes. This is in spite of the fact that they are far, far less harmful than combustible cigarettes (sound familiar?). So Swedish Match, the company that created Snus, has applied to the FDA what is known as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product designation. In non-governmentese, it means they could have a label that could read:

“no tobacco product is safe, but this product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes.”

Of course the FDA, being the FDA, is taking far to long to rule on this. They have kicked the ball down the field to an unspecified distant point. Which at least that means they didn’t say no…yet.

To give you an idea, its estimated that 200,000 smoking related deaths could be prevented each year in Europe if folks would switch to Snus at the same rates of use as in Sweden (where it was invented). But, since Snus would be competition for Nicorette Gum, and the FDA head of tobacco products is a former lobbyist for GlaxoSmithKline, who makes Nicorette Gum, I would not hold my breath on this one either.

The Modified Risk Tobacco Product designation application submitted by the makers of Snus is the first one the FDA has ever accepted. Comparing the results of studies done on Snus and electronic cigarettes seems to indicate that the two products enjoy similar levels of harm reduction from combustible cigarettes.

Regarding e-cigs:

Public Health England, a government agency, released a report stating that e-cigarettes are estimated to be 95% less harmful than smoking.

While for smokeless tobacco, like Snus:

Use of Swedish and American smokeless tobacco confers only 0.1% to 10% of the risks of smoking.

Meaning that if Snus’s Modified Risk Tobacco Product designation is approved, it should be even easier to get approval for e-cigs, as they are at least as safe, and quite possibly safer. Currently, electronic cigarettes are not supposed to be advertised as a safer alternative to smoking (despite the scientific evidence available so far), so a Modified Risk Tobacco Product designation would change that.

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