Purity Before Safety (or Science)

 

shutterstock_88312414The ‘war against tobacco’ has long since ceased to have much to do with saving lives. Here’s the latest bone-headed example:

(Reuters) – Swedish Match AB should not be allowed to alter the warning label on its snus smokeless tobacco products to claim they are less harmful than cigarettes, an advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded on Friday.

The Stockholm-based company is seeking FDA approval to remove warnings about mouth cancer, gum disease and tooth loss from its snus products and to state that they present a “substantially” lower risk than cigarettes.

‘Snus’ (often translated as ‘snuff’, but that’s a little misleading) is a Swedish moist tobacco product, typically inserted either loose or, rather more elegantly, in a small sachet, under the upper lip. The way that snus tobacco is treated (steam-pasteurization) appears to have reduced or eliminated its carcinogenic properties (as, of course, does the fact that it is not smoked).

Snus is wildly popular in Sweden (and, increasingly, Norway) and its success appears to have played a significant part in the very low smoking rates there (and corresponding reduction in tobacco-related disease). There is no evidence that snus operates as a gateway drug. There is evidence it helps people quit smoking.

Like just about everything else, Snus is not 100 percent risk-free (thus, as a product containing nicotine, there is some association with hypertension), but the cancer risk (a disputed connection with pancreatic cancer) is so low that the Swedish division of the nanny state (no slackers they!) removed the specific reference to cancer from the warning label put on tins of snus.

What cannot be denied is that snus is almost infinitely safer than cigarettes, and that tens of thousands of lives would be saved were it to be available elsewhere in Europe. But the EU, reliably hostile to anything that might actually be in the interests of its citizens, has banned snus other than in Sweden (and, to a limited degree, Denmark), where the product was grandfathered. Lucky Norway, of course, is not in the EU.

Snus is not banned in the US, but it seems unlikely that the snus warning label will be amended to reflect any inconvenient scientific truths (the FDA typically follows the recommendations of its advisory panels).

Reuters:

Advocates of a risk-based regulatory approach to tobacco products were disappointed.

“The committee appears to have set an absolute standard of safety that ignores decades of evidence showing that snus is vastly safer than cigarettes,” said Dr. Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville.

….Most panelists agreed that snus appears less harmful than cigarettes when used by smokers who switch.

Kurt Ribisl, a panel member and professor at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, said for people using tobacco products, “we need to find a way to nudge them to the less toxic products.”

Still, committee members said Swedish Match did not provide enough evidence to show Sweden’s experience could be replicated in the United States, or that the company had properly tested its proposed warning to ensure consumers would understand or be able to interpret it.

Because the US population is, in their view, very, very dim.

Reuters:

[The committee members] also said the company had not provided enough information to rule out an association between snus and tooth loss or gum disease, although four of eight panelists found enough evidence to rule out a meaningful link to mouth cancer.

Tobacco control advocates welcomed the vote, saying the company’s proposal did not reflect the full range of associated risks, including a potential increased risk of pancreatic cancer and risks to pregnant women.

That “welcome” was only to be expected. Only absolute purity will do. And if people have to die as a result, well, that’s too bad.

ISIS fans would understand. Moral fanaticism is what it is.

There are 15 comments.

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  1. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    I’ve advised many nicotine addicts to change to this product. I’ve tried it a few times. Decent taste and plenty of nicotine buzz( at least for someone not on nicotine)

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    What’s the difference—if there is one—between Snus and the smokeless tobacco my colleagues are always tucking into their bottom lips (and then spitting into coffee cups…look before you sip!?)

    If there’s a difference, is this available here? I’d love to turn some guys onto it.

    • #2
  3. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford
    @AndrewStuttaford

    Kate Braestrup:What’s the difference—if there is one—between Snus and the smokeless tobacco my colleagues are always tucking into their bottom lips (and then spitting into coffee cups…look before you sip!?)

    If there’s a difference, is this available here? I’d love to turn some guys onto it.

    There’s no spitting! All my Swedish friends use snus sachets (which look like a very small teabag).When they are done they simply remove the sachet and either put it in the trash or in the little notch built into many snus tins just for that purpose.

    • #3
  4. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc
    @Metalheaddoc

    More awesomeness from the Nanny State Ministry of “science”. They don’t like the abstinence model for sex education, but it’s okay for  nicotine?

    • #4
  5. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Andrew Stuttaford:

    Kate Braestrup:What’s the difference—if there is one—between Snus and the smokeless tobacco my colleagues are always tucking into their bottom lips (and then spitting into coffee cups…look before you sip!?)

    If there’s a difference, is this available here? I’d love to turn some guys onto it.

    There’s no spitting! All my Swedish friends use snus sachets (which look like a very small teabag).When they are done they simply remove the sachet and either put it in the trash or in the little notch built into many snus tins just for that purpose.

    I am also confused. In cowboy country, snus with brands like Copenhagen and Skoal (Scandanavian sounding anyone?) are popular (some even use the sachets), but these have still have been tied to increased incidents of mouth, throat, and stomach cancers. Is there something different about these newer snus products?

    • #5
  6. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Oh, also, while spitting is common with snus users, many snus users never spit. My father was one of them. He went 20 years with a pack of unfiltered Camels a day habit, to 12 years of three tins of Copenhagen a week habit, to a dozen cigars a year, then had a scare with lung cancer (a fungus, no cancer, thank God), to nothing for the past 5 years. He says he still has urges to smoke, but not to go back to snus.

    • #6
  7. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    I just did my own investigation, and it seems Scandinavian snus is processed different (steam pasteurization instead of partial fermentation and heat processing) than American “dipping tobacco”. Supposedly the Scandinavian snus is less irritating which leads to less saliva production and therefore less (or no) spitting.

    • #7
  8. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    Andrew Stuttaford:

    Kate Braestrup:What’s the difference—if there is one—between Snus and the smokeless tobacco my colleagues are always tucking into their bottom lips (and then spitting into coffee cups…look before you sip!?)

    If there’s a difference, is this available here? I’d love to turn some guys onto it.

    There’s no spitting! All my Swedish friends use snus sachets (which look like a very small teabag).When they are done they simply remove the sachet and either put it in the trash or in the little notch built into many snus tins just for that purpose.

    What about Z in MT’s question—no oral or throat cancer? (This is very exciting: my guys are always apologizing to me about their ‘dippin’,’ I suppose on the theory that, being a Woman of the Cloth, I’m going to count it as sinful. I don’t (unless I happened to drink from the wrong coffee cup) but I do worry about them getting cancer from it. It would be awesome to be the  chaplain who can says “your sins have been SNUS’d. Go forth and sachet,   my son!”

    • #8
  9. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Oh yeah,

    Apparently all chewing tobacco, snuff, and snus is illegal in the EU (Sweden and Denmark received exemptions) despite it being less harmful than cigarettes!

    • #9
  10. user_7042 Inactive
    user_7042
    @CaseyTaylor

    Kate Braestrup:What’s the difference—if there is one—between Snus and the smokeless tobacco my colleagues are always tucking into their bottom lips (and then spitting into coffee cups…look before you sip!?)

    If there’s a difference, is this available here? I’d love to turn some guys onto it.

    It is, though the Camel, Skoal, and Marlboro brands are just terrible.  They’re very sweet, and they are often not as fresh as they should be in order for the consumer to get the most from the experience.  General brand, however, which is usually only available in tobacco shops, is about the best available here in the States.  It’s almost identical to the authentic Swedish stuff and is made using the same pasteurization process as its EU cousin. That said, I still order mine direct from Sweden, as the brands and types I like are not available here.

    Side note:  Part of Swedish Match’s argument before the FDA was aimed at easing current restrictions on snus sales in the U.S. that date to Congressional passage of some incredibly stupid tobacco legislation in 2008.  It’s a pity that this failed, and I state that out of more than personal interest.  A lot of the Swedish domestic brands have very similar flavor profiles to American chewing tobacco and would be excellent alternatives for those looking to wean off of unhealthier forms of tobacco.

    • #10
  11. user_7042 Inactive
    user_7042
    @CaseyTaylor

    Z in MT:Oh yeah,

    Apparently all chewing tobacco, snuff, and snus is illegal in the EU (Sweden and Denmark received exemptions) despite it being less harmful than cigarettes!

    That’s not quite true.  While snus is illegal to sell outside of Scandinavia, nasal snuff is widely available in all EU member nations.  German and British snuffs comprise most of the market, with Poland trailing distantly in third.  Additionally, the Belgians make a loose oral snuff called makla that is very similar to Swedish snus and is available in the Low Countries and France.

    • #11
  12. user_7042 Inactive
    user_7042
    @CaseyTaylor

    Kate Braestrup:What about Z in MT’s question—no oral or throat cancer? (This is very exciting: my guys are always apologizing to me about their ‘dippin’,’ I suppose on the theory that, being a Woman of the Cloth, I’m going to count it as sinful. I don’t (unless I happened to drink from the wrong coffee cup) but I do worry about them getting cancer from it. It would be awesome to be the chaplain who can says “your sins have been SNUS’d. Go forth and sachet, my son!”

    There are quite a few reasons that snus is alleged to be safer than American-style chewing tobacco.  Broadly, they are as follows:

    1. Snus is not placed and held against the gumline, just against the gum.
    2. The product is much softer than American products, which causes less irritation of the gum.
    3. There is no sugar in snus to feed plaque-causing bacteria, whereas American chewing tobacco is loaded with it.
    4. The pasteurization process used in creating Swedish snus destroys nitrosamine compounds, which are thought to be the prime carcinogens in tobacco.  These compounds, which naturally occur in tobacco in trace amounts, are also created by fermenting tobacco, the primary means of producing American snuff and chew.
    5. The curing process used to create snus, which involves adding a solution of sodium chloride and sodium carbonate to ground tobacco prior to pasteurization, raises the pH of the final product.  This has the effect of creating an alkaline environment in the user’s mouth, which inhibits bacterial growth.  American tobaccos, however, are acidic and have just the opposite effect in users’ mouths.

    If there is anything else I can help you answer, I am at your service.

    • #12
  13. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    “The science is settled.” “Because, tobacco.”

    • #13
  14. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    If there is anything else I can help you answer, I am at your service.

    Thank you, Casey!

    • #14
  15. user_7042 Inactive
    user_7042
    @CaseyTaylor

    Kate Braestrup:

    If there is anything else I can help you answer, I am at your service.

    Thank you, Casey!

    You are quite welcome!

    • #15

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