News; Nov 22, 2004 3:50 PM CET

Swedish Match comments on IARC press release

We understand that many public health groups have in the past taken the position that the only way to reduce tobacco harm is tobacco abstinence. That view certainly deserves consideration. It is repeated in the IARC press release of November 16. However, we believe that the public, especially cigarette smokers, should be given the full facts about the comparative risk data on Swedish snus so they can make an informed choice. For example, in a 2003 report, entitled European Union Policy on Smokeless Tobacco: A Statement in Favor of EvidenceBased Regulation for Public Health, six well reputed European public health representatives concluded that a Swedish smokeless tobacco product called snus, now available in the United States, is "clearly an effective substitute" for cigarette smoking in Sweden and is "at least 90% less dangerous than cigarettes." One third of all ex-smokers in Sweden report that they use snus. About half of the tobacco consumed in Sweden is now consumed as snus. Sweden, it has been reported, has the lowest level of tobacco-related mortality in the developed world.

Cigarette smokers should be informed that a 2002 report of the Royal College of Physicians of London found that snus presents "substantially lower risk than cigarettes and is one reason why there is a lower cancer rate in Sweden" than in other European countries. That report also found smokeless tobacco is "in order of 10 1,000 times less hazardous than smoking." And in the U.S., the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Science in a 2001 report observed that "Two recent epidemiological studies have suggested that [Swedish snus] does not increase the risk of oral cancer," and it has "favorable cardiovascular risk outcomes."

Unfortunately, the IARC press release does not identify the specific scientific studies on which it claims to have based its conclusions. Indeed, the IARC report itself is not available, according to the IARC release, and will not be publicly available until next year. We believe that IARC should have made its report public and identified the research results it relies on so that the IARC conclusions can be properly evaluated by both the public heath community and the public. We understand that there is in fact no reliable epidemiologic evidence showing that our smokeless tobacco products may increase the risk of oral or other cancers in the absence of smoking.