Skip to content

    Smoking Cessation Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Snus: Stealth Health Risk

    Snus smokeless tobacco: Less harmful than cigarettes, but not safe.
    By
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    If you use snus, do you win or lose?

    Snus -- alternately pronounced snoose or snooze -- is a smokeless, flavored tobacco product very different from snuff. When placed between cheek and gum, it doesn't make you spit.

    Recommended Related to Smoking Cessation

    Who is at Risk?

    Note: Separate PDQ summaries on Skin Cancer Screening, Skin Cancer Treatment, and Levels of Evidence for Cancer Screening and Prevention Studies are also available. Individuals whose skin freckles, tans poorly, or burns easily after sun exposure are particularly susceptible to developing skin cancer.[1] Observational and analytic epidemiologic studies have consistently shown that increased cumulative sun exposure is a risk factor for nonmelanoma skin cancer.[1,2] Organ transplant recipients receiving...

    Read the Who is at Risk? article > >

    Even its critics admit that snus is less harmful than other forms of smokeless tobacco. And it is far less harmful than cigarette smoking.

    So is snus a good thing?

    It would be a good thing if everyone who smoked cigarettes or dipped snuff switched to snus instead. It would be a good thing if snus were a way station on the road to quitting all forms of tobacco. It would even be a good thing if kids who would have become smokers became snus users instead.

    But despite all of that, mounting evidence suggests snus isn't a good thing -- and may be far worse than they appear.

    Snus: Less Harmful, But Not Safe

    Cigarettes are the world's most efficient nicotine delivery device. They are also the most deadly. Many of the most dangerous byproducts of cigarettes are created during the burning process.

    Smokeless tobacco products obviously don't burn. But smokeless tobacco is a major cause of oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, and esophageal cancer.

    Much of this risk comes from cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). And snuff products actually deliver more cancer-causing nitrosamines than cigarettes do.

    But nitrosamine content is far lower in snus than in snuff, says Stephen S. Hecht, PhD, professor of cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota.

    "Snus are made with a special process to help control nitrosamine levels," Hecht tells WebMD.

    There's a catch, of course. Carcinogen levels in snus may be lower -- but they are not low.

    "Nitrosamine levels in snus are still 100 times greater than levels of nitrosamines in foods like nitrite-preserved meats," Hecht says. "This is not a harmless product."

    And there's evidence that these nitrosamines -- or something else in snus -- are causing cancer. In Sweden and Norway, where snus originated, snus users have a significantly higher risk of pancreatic cancer.

    Snus are also linked to mouth sores, dental cavities, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes risk. And they do deliver nicotine -- an addictive drug.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    hands breaking a cigarette
    Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
    ashtray
    14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
     
    smoking man
    Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
    cigarette smoke
    What happens when you kick the habit?
     

    Filtered cigarettes
    ARTICLE
    an array of e cigarettes
    ARTICLE
     
    human heart
    ARTICLE
    Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
    ARTICLE
     

    man smoking cigarette
    ARTICLE
    no smoking sign
    VIDEO
     
    Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
    ARTICLE
    chain watch
    ARTICLE