In recent months, you have published a debate on cigarette labelling and also on whether the EU should continue to bar snus – Swedish snuff – beyond Sweden’s borders (“Cut out the smoke, reduce the risks” and “More tobacco is not the answer”, 16-22 May). I would like to add my voice to those who have pointed out that the ban on snus is difficult to understand from the point of view of science-based quantitative risk assessment, all the more so since the EU permits the sale of nasal snuff and chewing tobacco that are far more hazardous than the outlawed Swedish oral moist snuff.
The potentially most problematic substances in smokeless tobacco products are nitrosamines (TSNA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). The Swedish Food Federation recently commissioned a study of the presence of these from Eurofins, a world-leading corporation for food and pharmaceutical products testing. Its analysis of 27 smokeless tobacco products marketed within the EU revealed that, in comparison with Swedish snus, some of these products contained up to 30 times higher levels of readily absorbed TSNA and up to 400 times higher concentrations of the PAH carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene.
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It revealed that in comparison with Swedish snus, nasal snuff products from Germany, the Netherlands and the UK contained up to 40 times higher concentrations of carcinogenic TSNAs, and more than 400 times higher levels of the PAH benzo(a)pyrene, which is a potent carcinogen (indeed, in some of these EU-approved products, PAH benzo(a)pyrene exceeds the maximum permitted concentrations in food items by a factor of one hundred).
Swedish snus is no doubt seen as an unwelcome competitor by producers of pharmaceutical nicotine products, but it is a stunning display of cynicism that the European Commission prevents access to an affordable alternative to cigarettes that could prevent smoking-related deaths.
Smoking is responsible for the deaths of about 700,000 people in the EU each year. It is no coincidence that the incidence of smoking- related diseases has dramatically decreased among Swedish men at a time when more and more of them are opting to use snus instead of cigarettes.