Did you know that Sweden banned smoking cigarettes, and e-cigarette products, in the majority of public places in 2019? Their current Prime Minister has a goal for the country to be smoke-free by 2025, according to AP News.

How did they do this? Offering citizens a product that combines the nicotine hit users crave, while minimizing the negative health effects of smoking. Daily cigarettes have gone out of style in Sweden.

The answer: snus (sounds like goose).

What exactly is snus and what role did it play in helping Swedes give up their cigarettes? How can this shift influence American tobacco habits?

What is snus?

Snus is a smokeless tobacco product. To activate snus, you place it inside your lip, between your lip and gums. Snus is available in loose form, but most people purchase it in small pouches, also known as “portion snus”.

Snus is most popular in Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway, and the sale of snus is illegal throughout the majority of the European Union. Canada imposes high taxes to prevent citizens from importing snus.

Snus isn’t fermented. Unlike with American dip, because snus doesn’t produce saliva, there’s no need for spitting.

Is snus available in the US? Is it different than snus in Sweden?

Snus is available in the US, but American snus is a bit different than the popular product in Sweden.

The biggest difference is that American snus may contain sugar and is usually flavored with spearmint, wintergreen, or fruity flavors. These additives mask the tobacco flavor.

Today, American snus is produced by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA, and other producers. Swedish snus is currently being offered by top manufacturer Swedish Match in select regions of the US, as well as Canada and Russia.

Swedish Match USA, Inc. received authorization to market eight snus smokeless tobacco products from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2019 as a “modified risk tobacco product” or MRTP. These products are marketed under the “General” brand name.

Is snus bad for you? How safe is snus?

We’ll spend the most time on this section, but TL;DR: Snus isn’t necessarily safe or healthy, but it is safer than smoking cigarettes.

In their news release, the U.S. FDA is clear in pointing out that their recent classification does not endorse Swedish Match USA products as safe or “FDA approved”, stating that “all tobacco products are potentially harmful and addictive, and those who do not use tobacco products should continue to refrain from their use.”

In order to classify snus as an MRTP, the FDA evaluated scientific data that consumer use reduced tobacco-related harm and exposure to diseases, as well as provided benefits for the overall health of the population.

Cited evidence includes epidemoiological studies that demonstrated how snus products were lower risk when compared to cigarette smoking for the following:

  • Mouth and lung cancer
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Emphysema and chronic bronchitis

The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs conducted a multi-criteria decision analysis to score the detrimental effects of tobacco products. Guess what? When it came to overall harm scores, cigarettes, cigars, and pipes all ranked in the highest echelon. Not suprisingly, snus, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), nasal sprays, oral products (lozenges and gum), and patches all bottomed out as least harmful for a number of criteria, including:

  • Morbidity or mortality, either related to or specifically from the product
  • Loss of tangibles or relationships
  • Detrimental to community, family, or environment

While snus is certainly “safer” than cigarettes, you shouldn’t make the assumption snus is “safe”. The Norwegian Cancer Association indicates that snus contains carcinogens and people who use snus face an increased risk of serious health damage.

Snus should only be used by current smokers as a substitute for cigarettes, decreasing the number of smokers and “ultimately, a reduction in negative health effects due to tobacco use”, according to an article in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

What is the difference between snus and Zyn or nicotine pouches?

Snus contains ground tobacco leaf, making it a true tobacco product. Zyn and other nicotine pouches are small portions of nicotine that are used in the same method as snus, but do not contain any tobacco.

In the U.S., Zyn and nicotine pouches are often sold in the same section as cigarettes and other tobacco products. In Canada, individuals cannot purchase nicotine pouches because nicotine is regulated as a prescription drug.

How Sweden banned cigarettes

Sweden’s smoking rate was nearly 34% in 1980, but soon gradually decreased as users became savvy of how dangerous smoking can be for your health. Sweden’s cigarette sales declined in the 1990s when snus saw a boom.

Government intervention wasn’t necessary to help people quit smoking -- Swedes figured it out on their own organically. The government did eventually institute tax reductions that resulted in more Swedes choosing snus over cigarettes.

Sweden embraced a “harm reduction” philosophy, where using snus became an acceptable solution to smoking cigarettes. Swedish culture normalized snus, and cigarettes fell by the wayside.

What does tobacco use look like in Sweden today?

Sweden’s rate of citizens who smoke cigarettes daily is approximately 5%. Bulgaria, Greece, and France all exceed 33%, and in the U.S., roughly 15% of the American population are daily smokers.

Nearly 15% of Swedish people use snus daily.

When Swedes used snus to successfully quit smoking cigarettes, did they become addicted to snus? A 10-year study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health concluded that “the majority of middle-aged Swedish men and women who quit smoking did so without becoming snus dependent.”

What are Sweden’s lung cancer rates like?

Sweden currently has the lowest male death rate for smoking-related cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and other cancers that are related to tobacco usage.

Data indicates that Sweden has held the lowest lung cancer mortality rates in Europe for nearly the last 50 years.

Could the U.S. look to model what Sweden accomplished in banning cigarettes?

Many researchers suggest that Sweden’s impressive results seen implementing a harm reduction strategy with tobacco usage should be considered throughout the European Union, where snus is currently banned.

With the rise of alternative nicotine sources, we hope American smokers feel empowered to try new solutions to secure their nicotine fix, wherever they want, without causing adverse health effects or the stench of cigarettes.

Big Tobacco has pivoted in many ways -- investing in flavored tobacco, vape companies, and other nicotine sources in order to maintain profitability. Tobacco is still a commodity in many southern U.S. states, and it is highly unlikely that any U.S. government administration would seek to abolish the industry by banning cigarettes altogether.

In our society today, tobacco is a problem for many, and we believe in a future where nicotine can be part of the solution.

Is snus better than nicotine gum, lozenges, or other NRTs? How should I cut back on smoking or vaping?

Going back to the international committee that scored all tobacco products based on their harmful effects, snus is the highest ranking in its cluster, likely because snus contains tobacco.

Snus contains whole tobacco leaves, and we believe you should have high-quality cigarette alternatives made without the need for any tobacco. That’s why we make LUCY chew and park, and nicotine lozenges, from only purified tobacco, not containing any part of the tobacco leaf.

The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should not be construed as a substitute for, professional medical or health advice on any subject matter. Please consult your physician regarding any medical treatment decisions.