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Tobacco Policy: Commons Committee Urges Review Of Snus Ban

Embargo 00.01 Friday 17 August 2018

  • Commons Committee says government should reassess the ban on snus
  • The oral tobacco product has seen smoking rates in Sweden fall to 5%
  • Scientists describe the ban as “entirely disproportionate”
  • UK users of snus say it keeps them from smoking deadly cigarettes
  • Department of Health wants the ban to continue

A House of Commons Select Committee has urged the government to consider ending the 28 year old ban [1] on the oral tobacco product snus.

The Science and Technology Committee called for “an evidence-based assessment of the case for discontinuing the ban on ‘snus’ oral tobacco” to go alongside a comprehensive review of e-cigarette regulation. [2]

Snus is banned across the EU but its use in Scandinavia has been accompanied by huge reductions in smoking. In Sweden, which has an exemption from the EU ban, the smoking rate has plummeted to 5% - by far the lowest in the EU. [3] Snus is used by 20% of Swedish adults [4] and the country has the lowest level of tobacco-related deaths in Europe according to World Health Organisation figures. [5] In neighbouring Norway the smoking rate among young women has fallen from 30% to just 1% over the last 16 years. [6]

A succession of scientific reports [7] has found no evidence of mortality associated with snus use - including no link to oral cancer. [8] Action on Smoking and Heath says snus is “over 100 times less harmful” than smoking [9] and the World Health Organisation also regards it as far safer. [10]

Professor Riccardo Polosa, who gave oral evidence to the Select Committee, said that “there is a strong consensus among the scientific community that the ban on snus is entirely disproportionate. Without a shadow of a doubt snus is vastly safer than smoking.” [11]

Snus can be legally used in the UK but not sold. This has led to a lot of users importing it themselves including Premier League footballers [12] and Scandinavians living in the UK.

“I am very excited by the possible end of the snus ban. Snus has saved my life,” says Nikki Hallam who has used snus for the last two years. “Snus is the only thing which keeps me from going back to smoking,” she added.

Many non-Scandinavians also bring snus into the UK: “As soon as I get to the US where the FDA has authorised snus I buy an armful of tins which help keep me off the fags when I’m back in the UK” says Neil McLaren who lives in Kent and is the co-founder of Vaping. com.

Professor Gerry Stimson of the New Nicotine Alliance charity said: “This report is a milestone for harm reduction pointing the way to pragmatic, proportionate regulation of e-cigarettes. It is also the beginning of the end for the grotesque mistake of banning snus which has been hugely successful in reducing smoking and saving lives.” [13]

The European Court of Justice is currently reviewing the EU ban on snus. [14] The Department of Health told the Commons Committee that it opposed the EU legalising snus because of “controversy”. [15] Chewed tobacco which is used by half a million South Asians in the UK remains legal despite it being highly carcinogenic. [16]

Issued on behalf of the New Nicotine Alliance


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[1] Snus Ban: It was banned in the UK in 1990 and the EU in 1992. Sweden had an exemption when it joined the EU in 1995.
[2] Committee Report: House of Commons Science and Technology Committee “E-cigarettes - Seventh Report of Session 2017–19”: snus is mentioned on page 4
[3] Sweden Smoking Fall: Daily smoking fell in Sweden from 8% to 5% over the last three years. See page 27 of EU Eurobarometer 2017.
[4] Sweden Snus Use: Snus is legal in Sweden and 20% of people are daily users of oral/chewed/nasal tobacco. See footnote on page 73 of EU Eurobarometer 2017.
[5] Sweden Lowest Tobacco Mortality in Europe: Lars Ramström, Institute for Tobacco Studies, Sweden. Sweden’s pathway to Europe’s lowest level of tobacco-related mortality. Data from The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016, Lancet 2017; 390: 1345–422
[6] Norway 1% smoking rate: among young women smoking fell from 30% to 1% in sixteen years: Norwegian Smoking Data (select data using tick icons and then download to Excel).
[7] Snus Health Impact: The Lancet: Global Burden of Disease Study, 2017: No evidence of harm being done by long-term use of snus ”for any health outcome” See page 1364: . Epidemiology: Two academic studies have shown that if snus were available in the rest of Europe it could save between 200,000 and 355,000 lives every year. Brad Rodu, 2004 Snus Commission report, 2017
[8] Oral cancer: for snus “no overall association is seen for oropharyngeal cancer”. See section 3.1 Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology:
[9] Action on Smoking and Health: “the contradictory, illogical law on tobacco… leaves cigarettes legal while snus, which is over 100 times less harmful, is banned.”
[10] World Health Organisation: Swedish snus is “considerably less hazardous than cigarettes”. Page 273
[11] Professor Polosa Biography:
[12] Football: Jamie Vardy: snus use Charlie Adams says snus is prevalent amongst footballers:
[13] Professor Gerry Stimson:
[14] European Court of Justice asked to lift ban on snus. Latest proceedings:
[15] Department of Health Back EU Ban: Committee Report: House of Commons Science and Technology Committee “E-cigarettes - Seventh Report of Session 2017–19”: see paragraph 76 on page 33
[16] Chewed Tobacco Risks: Government chemist shows harmful chemicals: Also: South Asian women suffer 3.7 times more oral cancer than non-South Asians: