Reader Comments

Post a new comment on this article

“Should the Health Community Promote Smokeless Tobacco (Snus) as a Harm Reduction Measure?” – Comments from British American Tobacco

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:11 GMT

Author: Justine Williamson
Position: International Scientific Engagement Manager
Institution: British American Tobacco
Additional Authors: Christopher Proctor
Submitted Date: August 03, 2007
Published Date: August 6, 2007
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Chapman and Freeman question the tobacco industry’s aims on snus, and whether these can be consistent with harm reduction. We cannot speak on behalf of the industry as a whole. However, we at British American Tobacco understand that cigarette smoking is a major cause of serious and fatal diseases, and we believe that the use of Swedish-style snus products, while not harmless, is substantially less harmful than cigarette smoking (1) . We are piloting snus in several countries outside of Sweden as a response to those public health stakeholders who have told us they believe that snus, properly regulated, can contribute to reducing the net public health impact of tobacco use.

We believe adult consumers of tobacco products would benefit from the enactment of a regulatory framework which facilitates consistent, accurate and meaningful communications on the relative health risks of smoking, using snus or abstaining entirely from tobacco use. While ideally this framework would be developed and agreed under the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, the recent second Conference of the Parties to the FCTC did not address oral tobacco products and has not assigned a high priority to tobacco product regulation in this area. Given this, we think national governments should develop a regulatory framework for snus. In doing so, we think that governments should be mindful of the concerns expressed by Chapman and Freeman.

We agree with the recently released preliminary report from the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks which states that “the balance of these effects [beneficial versus adverse effects on smoking prevalence] will be highly dependent upon the marketing of the product, the health messages delivered with it, and the extent to which switching to smokeless tobacco products as a harm reduction strategy is endorsed by health professionals and their organisations.” (2)

We acknowledge that some have concerns with regard to our interest in snus as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes. We seek to work with the public health community and regulators to achieve a reduction in the public health impact of tobacco use.


1) D.T. Levy et al, The relative risks of a low-nitrosamine smokeless tobacco product compared with smoking cigarettes: estimates of a panel of experts. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 13, 12, 2035-42, 2004.

2) Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, Health Effects of Smokeless Tobacco Products, Preliminary Report, page 111, June 2007. (

No competing interests declared.