Should the Health Community Promote Smokeless Tobacco (Snus) as a Harm Reduction Measure?
The tobacco control community is divided on whether or not to inform the public that using oral, smokeless tobacco (Swedish snus) is less hazardous to health than smoking tobacco. Proponents of “harm reduction” point to the Swedish experience. Snus seems to be widely used as an alternative to cigarettes in Sweden, say these proponents, contributing to the low overall prevalence of smoking and smoking-related disease. Harm reduction proponents thus argue that the health community should actively inform inveterate cigarette smokers of the benefits of switching to snus. However, critics of harm reduction say that snus has its own risks, that no form of tobacco should ever be promoted, and that Sweden's experience is likely to be specific to that culture and not transferable to other settings. Critics also remain deeply suspicious that the tobacco industry will use snus marketing as a “gateway” to promote cigarettes. In the interests of promoting debate, the authors (who are collaborators on a research project on the future of tobacco control) have agreed to outline the strongest arguments for and against promoting Swedish snus as a form of harm reduction.