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Snus: Stealth Health Risk

Snus smokeless tobacco: Less harmful than cigarettes, but not safe.

Snus: An Aid to Quitting Cigarettes?

Data from Sweden show that snus users don't always progress to cigarette use, and that it's possible to use snus to reduce dependence on cigarettes.

One Swedish study, for example, found that there were more ex-smokers using snus that there were ex-snus users using cigarettes.

However, Steinberg notes that this study fails to account for significant anti-smoking efforts taking place in Sweden at the same time, such as indoor health programs and government assistance to smoking cessation programs.

"Other countries, such as Norway, have not seen the same outcomes in terms of health benefits of snus as in Sweden," he says.

Steinberg points to studies showing that snus isn't any more helpful than nicotine replacement products such as nicotine gum and nicotine nasal spray.

"The real question is who do you buy your nicotine from?" GSU's Erickson says. "Do you buy it from a tobacco company that can put anything on the market with no testing … or do you buy it from pharmaceutical companies that have to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their products as a drug and demonstrate they actually work?"

Snus and Nicotine Addiction

It's right there in a big black box on the home page of the Camel Snus web site: "WARNING: Smokeless tobacco is addictive."

Snus users get hooked on nicotine. This means that if users try to quit, they will go through the unpleasant sick feeling known as withdrawal. Many will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to stop using nicotine in one form or another.

"Those who sell nicotine would like to keep people hooked on nicotine forever. That is a question, whether lifetime nicotine addiction is acceptable," Erikson says. "There are 50 million people in the U.S. who are regular nicotine users. The sooner we can get them from relying on smoked nicotine to not-smoked nicotine the better. The sooner we can get them all off nicotine entirely, the better."

All of the experts who spoke with WebMD agree: Snus clearly aren't as deadly as cigarettes, but they pose a significant risk to your health.

"The bottom line is there is no safe form of tobacco use," Pechacek says.

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Reviewed on October 27, 2010

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