If we want to benefit from Brexit, the first thing we should do is make snus legal

In Sweden, the smoking rate has fallen to a mere nine per cent, as the New Scientist reports

Sweden is lighting the way to a cigarette-free world. The Swedish government has released data showing that the proportion of men aged between 30 and 44 smoking fell to just 5 per cent in 2016. 

Overall, just 8 per cent of Swedish men now smoke on a daily basis – itself a record-low percentage – compared with a European Union average of just over 25 per cent. The proportion of Swedish women who smoke also continues to fall, and is now 10 per cent.

It is extremely unusual for men to be smoking less than women. In fact, Sweden is the only country where this happens. To understand why, you need to appreciate that Sweden’s exceptionally low smoking rate is due to the availability of snus, a smokeless tobacco product that is banned in the rest of the EU because the authorities in Brussels wrongly assumed that it caused mouth cancer in the early 1990s. Snus has been used in Scandinavia for 200 years but has traditionally been associated with men, hence the higher rate of smoking among women.

It has not always been this way. In the 1970s, 40 per cent of Swedish men smoked, a typical figure for a Western society at the time. Also typical was the fact that Swedish women smoked less. Thereafter, smokers gradually switched to snus and Sweden’s smoking rate is now less than half the European average.  

Unfortunately, by the time this quiet revolution was noticed by outside observers, such as Dr Brad Rodu in the USA, the EU had banned snus in every member state except Sweden, which had demanded an opt-out when it joined in 1995. 

In 2002, the Royal College of Physicians criticised the ‘perverse regulatory imbalance’ that closed off an option for smokers who wanted to greatly reduce their health risks. The following year, the director of Action on Smoking and Health, Clive Bates, joined other anti-smoking campaigners in calling for an end to the EU ban. Nothing happened. Nor did anything happen when the EU revised its Tobacco Products Directive in 2014. 

Now Sweden’s smoking rate is just nine per cent. The EU average is 23 per cent. The UK, which has a much more aggressive set of anti-smoking policies than Sweden, has a rate of 18 per cent. The results of Sweden’s natural experiment could not be starker.

As the New Scientist notes, legal action is currently underway to overturn the snus ban in court. Snus has never been convincingly linked to any form of cancer (including pancreatic cancer, which is mentioned in the New Scientist article). Indeed, Sweden has not only have the lowest rate of lung cancer in the EU, but also the lowest rate of pancreatic cancer and one of the lowest rates of oral cancer

And yet snus remains the only tobacco product that cannot legally be sold in the EU. The UK has to take its share of the blame for this reckless act of folly as it was Edwina Currie who started the whole panic in the late 1980s. But what Britain started, it can finish. If legal action fails, repealing this idiotic law should be on the to-do list of the Department for Exiting the European Union. When it comes to benefiting from Brexit, fruit does not hang any lower than this.

  • JLTrader

    It appears that Sweden has always had a 3 times or so lower incidence of lung cancer compared to UK for instance. According to this http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1011238525498, the incidence rate for males peaked at 49/100k in 1982. The male lung cancer incidence for UK was 141/100k in 1993. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/sites/default/files/cstream-node/inc_asr_uk_lung_I14.pdf

    • endorendil

      It is actually one of the cleares proofs that cigarettes cause lung cancer. Snus is not inhaled, which is why it’s not related to lung cancer rates, but it has been linked to increased rates of oral (and pancreatic) cancer. That is born out by increased rates of those cancers correlating to the switch from smoking to snus. So while it’s safer than smoking, it’s still dangerous.

      • JLTrader

        I was showing that even when Swedish male smoking rate was 40%, like it says in the article, their lung cancer incidence was much lower than in countries with similar smoking rates. Sweden is just another so called paradox, like Japan. I haven’t looked into snus, but I very much doubt it causes oral cancer (because firstly Sweden doesn’t have an increased incidence of oral cancer, secondly because I don’t think it is known what causes oral cancer…it used to be heavy use of tobacco+alcohol, now it’s HPV…so who knows?), never mind pancreatic cancer.

        • endorendil

          There was an increase in oral cancers correlated with the rise of snus use and the decrease of lung cancer. Correlation isn’t causation, but it’s not otherwise explained.

          • Hermine Funkington-Rumpelstilz

            Oral cancer due to excessive use of snus isn’t explained?
            Interesting taurean excrement.

    • There was an increase in oral cancers correlated with the rise of snus use and the decrease of lung cancer. Correlation isn’t causation, but it’s not otherwise explained.

  • Occam’s Razor

    I dd my MSc in Sweden, and decided when I moved there that I’d try and give up smoking. I erroneously believed tobacco would be more expensive there than the UK.

    I noticed just about everyone in bars using snus, and very very few smoking. I searched medical journals using my university access to find studies into the long term effects of snus use. After reading several independent papers, I came away happy use snus, and since moving back to the UK, I still do. Though finding importers isn’t easy.

    This article is spot-on. The EU has outlawing its sale while allowing smoking tobbaco is yet another case of it being completely out of touch with reality.

    • Hermine Funkington-Rumpelstilz

      GE crops shouldn’t be grown full stop. We do not require an increase in yields and there are plenty of natural ways of pest control.

  • endorendil

    It remains addictive and still causes cancer, but of a different kind and at lower incidence. While it’s certainly better than smoking, it’s still worse than nicotine patches or abstaining from tobacco entirely. So I understand completely why healthcare organisations still prefer to focus on eliminating tobacco, rather than pushing less dangerous substitutes.

    • JonathanBagley

      The largest and most recent studies show no evidence for associations between snus and any types of cancer. Please can you tell us where your information comes from?

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3546a9772d60a064b2b97edfa46f3013a46756ebd0c70da70fb6d3afa082dc80.jpg
    Best article in months! Snus is great but can be even Greater in the future. Just released this press release about the PATENTED SNUS REVOLUTION in Sweden.


  • Swedish snus is health wise equal to littering with a fine – Smoking is equal to life time imprisonment! Check out this very short EU seminar video on the subject. 3 700 views so far. https://www.facebook.com/snusnews/videos/370926526618338/

  • 73 % of all SNUS users are FORMER cigarette smokers and thus thousands die less and society saves billions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WV4Z5i9JRA

  • besides, if BREXIT fails or is delayed, SNUS could become legal in EU just the same since the snus is now invited to the EU court of justice thanks to a legal ruling in UK High Court of Justice on 26 January 2017. Read about it here. http://nnalliance.org/blog/165-update-on-the-challenge-to-the-ban-on-snus-next-step-the-european-court-of-justice

  • here’s another bummer. Swedish laws forbid any type of advertising for #snus but allows it for all types of nicotine patches, gums, pills and even what looks like sweets (risky for kids) on TV, newspapers, radio etc. The nicotine (same nicotine as in snus and cigarettes) can have a strength of up to 24 mg (!), which is sky high more than a snus prilla. Governments all over the world even don’t tax it. Besides these nicotine products cost about 5-6 times more than snus “per portion” and have a success rate of merely 2-4 % and are just as addictive as any other nicotine product . Snus is 15-20 times more effective. Read my article on it here. http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/b-o-wiberg-solutions-ab/pressreleases/swedish-advertising-laws-can-kill-1858602 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2976b4ed9e7ebb552de3fa4642efe8ec363663afd2e8e401d15ec4722624d94c.png

  • Hermine Funkington-Rumpelstilz

    Your getting your priorities in order, right. Will the brain follow or do we need a two year, five stage clinical trial to figure it out?