The study, by Dr Karl Lund, also found that 32% of ex-smokers used snus to quit, whereas only 14% used pharmaceutical nicotine medication. From this, we can draw the conclusion that if smokers were not ignorant about snus's risk profile, many more Norwegians would be ex-smokers.
Still, at least the people of Norway - having wisely chosen to remain outside the EU - are able to buy snus if they want to. The same cannot be said of we Brits who helped to introduce the EU ban in the first place (see The Art of Suppression. You've read it by now, right?)
The harm reduction potential of snus in tobacco control can seem like a relatively new discovery. It is easy to believe that a clueless anti-smoking movement stamped the product out without realising the possibilities it had for smoking cessation. It was, after all, not until 2004 that Brad Rodu and Philip Cole published the study showing that 200,000 premature deaths could be prevented by adopting a Swedish culture of snus use.
This is not quite true. As early as 1985, the addiction expert M.A.H.Russell had tested snus (Skoal Bandits in fact) and wrote to The Lancet saying:
Our results suggest that this new product could help people trying to give up smoking. It might be cheaper than nicotine chewing gum and would not require a prescription. If all smokers in Britain switched to sachets about 50,000 premature deaths per year might eventually be saved at an annual cost of less than 1,000 deaths from mouth cancer.
This was at a time when snus was believed to cause mouth cancer, a belief that has been known to be false for over a decade. Nevertheless, Russell based his figures on the core principle of harm reduction and understood that 50,000 minus 1,000 still left 49,000, and that this was better than the prohibitionist, quit-or-die fairytales that were dominant in the tobacco control movement even then.
History will not look favourably on the dangerous idiots who banned snus in the EU - especially those who still support the prohibition now that the facts are clear. There were rational voices thirty years ago which went unheeded.
One of Russell's co-authors for the Lancet letter was Martin Jarvis. Today, Jarvis is a trustee of ASH. ASH is truculent, devious and unreliable on almost every matter on which they claim to have expertise. None of their pronouncements of the last fifteen years has not involved at least a half-lie, but their failure to speak out against the EU ban adds cowardice, hypocrisy and gross negligence to the charge sheet.