Part 3 – is snus healthier than smoking?

“With the Royal College of Physicians saying that it [snus] is 1,000 times less harmful than cigarettes, it has been hailed as a healthier alternative for heavy smokers.”


This is a quote from an Independent news article published in 2012. I’m not 100% sure where they got this statistic from, as I cannot find it in anywhere else, but certainly snus is deemed the healthier option across most newspaper articles and webpages. But what do we really know about snus from published scientific research?

Loose_Snus_Mountain

Cardiovascular effects

Nicotine use itself is thought to be a cardiovascular risk factor for heart attacks (myocardial infarction) and strokes. Snus is a useful way of studying this as you don’t get all the other bad things associated with smoking – which we know is a huge risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.

  • Snus doesn’t appear to increase the risk of heart attack, ischaemic heart disease or stroke
  • Snus does however appear to be associated with increased risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease, for example after a heart attack
  • It is still unclear whether snus is a risk factor for developing hypertension, although it appears to acutely raise the blood pressure during use

Weight, BMI and diabetes

Nicotine and snus use could also be linked with metabolic disturbances through unknown mechanisms.

  • Snus doesn’t appear to increase the risk of developing diabetes
  • Snus does however appear to be associated with weight gain and obesity

Cancer

Snus is still tobacco and therefore it still contains carcinogenic chemicals – up to 30 have been identified. These can still be absorbed into the blood stream, be in contact with the mouth, swallowed into the stomach and taken up by different organs.

  • Snus doesn’t appear to be associated with lung, stomach, kidney or bladder cancer. All of which are highly associated with smoking
  • Snus may be a risk factor for pancreatic cancer, but not as high risk as smoking is
  • The evidence regarding oral (mouth) cancer is debatable. Current research available is limited by small studies, poor design and difficulty adjusting for smoking and alcohol – which are strong risk factors for oral cancer.

This is why my thesis is specifically looking at oral cancer. I’ll be using a huge database of people including information about snus, smoking and alcohol. Hopefully I can finally settle this debate on snus!

 

Read more

This post is part of my series on snus and oral cancer – the topic of my master’s thesis. Read the two previous posts here:

Images: https://www.buysnus.com/sv/snus.aspx

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