After criticism: "The difference between men who sniff and women who smoke is the key"

Many Swedish politicians have missed the basic message of harm reduction and Swedish snus use. At least in their election manifestos. This is the view of the Swedish Snus Commission, which is now fighting back against misleading information in its reports.
"No-one is claiming that we as a population have lower mortality due to tobacco-related diseases. It is Swedish men who have it and the reason is that they use snus instead of smoking. Women have the same mortality rate as other women in the EU - but they smoke instead of snus", the Snus Commission writes in a press release.

As Vejpkollen previously reported, the issue of white snus and nicotine pouches has become part of the debate ahead of the upcoming European elections. Among other things, the Conservatives have promised to actively work for white snus to be regulated as in Sweden and not banned from sale in the EU. One of the arguments has been that Swedish snus use has led to a lower proportion of smokers and thus a significantly lower mortality rate from tobacco-related injuries compared to the rest of the EU.

Not the lowest in the EU according to WHO

But the claim that Swedes have the lowest tobacco-related mortality in Europe is not true. This was revealed in a review that Swedish Radio Ekot recently published. At the same time, some political parties were confronted for spreading a false message about snus and its relation to tobacco-related harm. 

"Sweden is low but certainly not the lowest" says professor Peter Allebeck, health researcher at Karolinska Institutet and refers to statistics from World Health Organisation (WHO), to Swedish Radio.

Changing their election manifestos

At the centre of the feature was the Snus Commission, which has been releasing reports on snus and its effects in Sweden since 2016. According to the accused parties, information was obtained from The Snus Commission when formulating its statements on snus and nicotine pouches ahead of the European elections. The news was picked up in several media and some of the parties have now changed their texts in the election material.

Missing the gender gap

But according to the Snus Commission, the message about tobacco-related mortality in Sweden has never been about the whole population. But that is also the whole point.

"The Snus Commission's claim that this applies to the entire population is incorrect. The whole point of our reasoning is that Swedish men have been using snus for a long time instead of smoking. Hence the low tobacco-related mortality. Women have smoked and therefore have higher death rates. The fact that some political parties have missed this distinction is regrettable and should be corrected." writes the Snus Commission, via addiction researcher Karl Fagerström, in a press release.

"Live with snus or die from cigarettes"

According to the Snus Commission, statistics from the WHO show that, compared to other men of the same age in Europe, it is Swedish men as a group who have significantly lower mortality from tobacco-related diseases. For women of the same age, mortality rates are similar compared to the rest of the EU.

"It is this difference that is the whole point of the harm reduction principle's public health benefits. You can live with your snus, but you will die from your cigarettes," writes the Snus Commission.

White snus could be banned

According to statistics, almost 25% of the European population smokes on average, and in some countries it is 35% among men. Snus is illegal to sell in all countries except Sweden. Nicotine pouches, on the other hand, are still unregulated and are not included in the Swedish exemption. However, this may change as the products are likely to be incorporated into the European Tobacco Products Directive in the near future. The risk then is that even the white snus will be bannedor at least severely restricted through taxes and flavour bans. The Snus Commission believes that the Swedish "model" with a wide range of smokeless nicotine products has been an important factor in improving public health in Sweden. Especially among men. 

 "It is therefore particularly worrying that the EU is now discussing banning white snus, which is a new product that women are consuming in greater numbers. When there is finally an alternative for women that can reduce their tobacco-related mortality, it should be banned." writes the Snus Commission.

Independent financing of snus manufacturers

The Snus Commission is funded by Swedish Snus Manufacturers' Association, but reportedly acts independently when it comes to reports and opinion pieces. The Commission is made up of doctor Anders Milton, addiction researcher Karl Fagerström (who developed the modern nicotine pouch), former metal chairman Göran Johnsson and media manager Christina Bellander.

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