What day is it? Sunday? Seems like as good a day as any to save a few hundred thousand lives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking causes over 400,000 deaths each year in the United States.¹ The CDC doesn’t have any statistics on smokeless tobacco deaths because the risks are too small to reliably track.
Yes, there are some reports from the WHO on the risks of smokeless tobacco in general — if you include all of the various kinds used worldwide — ones prepared with corn starch and lime and creepy additives. But as for Swedish snus, even the WHO has to admit, “two studies from Sweden that were well-designed and controlled for smoking showed no association between smokeless tobacco use overall, specifically ever use of snus, and oral cancer.”
As Ken Warner (director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network) said,
“The Swedish government has studied this stuff to death, and to date, there is no compelling evidence that it has any adverse health consequences. …Whatever they eventually find out, it is dramatically less dangerous than smoking.”²
Basically, what it comes down to is. If you are smoker, go to your local tobacco shop and get some snus. Put it in your mouth and stop smoking. It may save your life. If every smoker in the U.S. did this it would save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Don’t believe me? There’s a nice guy named Brad Rodu who runs a blog called Tobacco Truth, and he has a ton of information on his blog. Brad is a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville. He holds an endowed chair in tobacco harm reduction research, and is a member of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center at U of L. If you ask him questions on his blog, like I did, he’ll answer them.
Still don’t believe me? Read this report by the Department of Public Health and General Practice at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Christchurch, New Zealand. According to the report, snus does not appear to lead to increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or diabetes.
But you say, “Mitch, why do snus cans have those scary warning labels?” Answer: Because there’s a law passed by our beloved Congress that says that all tobacco products have to have warning labels. And, as we know, our Congress is full of people who are not swayed by facts. Half of them are scientifically illiterate. There are quite a few who don’t even believe in evolution.
It comes down to this. If you aren’t addicted to nicotine, don’t start. Clearly it’s better to avoid putting tobacco into your body altogether if you can. But if you’re an addict and you can’t quit, choose smokeless products. The risks are clearly less.
¹ According to this CDC Fact Sheet. They have smokeless tobacco fact sheet, but it’s uncontaminated by any hard statistics.
² Courtesy of this Wikipedia article.