Is it or isn't it
Harmful? Or, actually a harm reducer as one Swedish producer has claimed?
One of the features in an issue of Nordstjernan this year may have been slightly controversial. It centered on Swedish snus (moist smokeless tobacco), and whether it represents a remedy for many of the evils of smoking tobacco: A safer alternative to smoking?

Swedish company Swedish Match is convinced it is and has applied to the U.S Food and Drug Administration to change the warning labels on 10 of its products. As we pointed out in a separate story, only two countries in the world have a high volume of users of moist snuff — the United States and Sweden. Although far apart geographically, the use of snus in the two nations is far from coincidental. The Swedish immigrants from the 19th century and onward simply brought the custom with them to the U.S. - The story of snus in Sweden and the U.S.
One snus manufacturer’s spokesperson we talked to a few years ago said: “Like it or not, more and more people consider our product the right source for harm reduction. We’re not asking everyone to love it; we want nothing more than for all available information to be made available to people. Then let them form their own opinions.”
That sums up our intentions for the articles we ran in issue 7 and again here today. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I was a long-time snus user myself. And I am impressed by the body of evidence suggesting not only that snus is much safer than other forms of tobacco, but that it may in fact be fairly harmless. In the opinion of many people these days, any tobacco is bad for you. Many groups, from lawmakers to health organizations to anti-tobacco activists, lump smokeless tobacco into the same category as smoking, saying it is just as dangerous as cigarettes.
But is it the nicotine in tobacco that is harmful, or the smoke from burning cigarettes, pipes and cigars? Is all tobacco really bad, or are there low-risk alternatives to cigarettes? Are there really two sides to the tobacco argument and, if so, why does it seem like there is only one? These are just some of the questions swirling through the debate over the use of tobacco products, which includes smokeless tobacco. Snus is now at the center of this debate. Much more so than ever before, since Swedish Match applied for the change of labels at the FDA.
Over 40 million people smoke in America, and statistically half of all long-term smokers will die from the habit. However, if you believe all tobacco is bad or shun all potentially addictive substances (which include coffee and tea among others), you may feel better off skipping the article, A safer alternative to smoking?
In my view, it would be wonderful if the long-term effects of snus turned out to be benign, and snus became popular in this U.S. too as a way to enjoy tobacco while avoiding the dangers of smoking. But while this is still being debated, we wanted to bring you most of the available facts. And, as is our custom, leave it to you to decide for yourself.


Ulf Barslund Martensson
Editor & Publisher