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Snus – a liquid, smokeless, ground tobacco product – originated in Sweden about 200 years ago, but is now also used in the United States. Smokeless tobacco is seen by some in the tobacco industry as a better alternative to smoking. In October 2019, the FDA approved a press release that said "using generic snus instead of cigarettes puts you at lower risk of heart disease, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, stroke, and emphysema."
This authorization was made after a review of scientific evidence submitted by the company that supported this claim. Although it was approved by the FDA, research shows that there are some health risks associated with snus, including diabetes, cardiovascular problems, cancer and stillbirths.
What is Snus?
Snus is a smokeless tobacco product that is ground up and sold in a pouch. Consumers place the bag under the top of the lip. When snus is processed, it may include tobacco pasteurization. This happens when nitrate-forming microbes are removed. The process results in lower levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamine content in the product. Because of this process, some researchers and tobacco companies report that snus is a less harmful alternative to cigarette smoking.
Better than cigarettes, but not safe
Snus is available in some parts of Northern Europe and the United States. It is gaining popularity in South Africa. The sale of snus was banned by all European Union countries except Sweden in the early 1990s. The product is used in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Snus in pouch form is banned in Denmark, but bulk snus is sold there.
In the United States, snus products are sold in flavored pre-portions. The flavors are minty and wintery. In Sweden, products have strength descriptions, serving size specifications, a variety of flavors such as lemon, clove, mint, cherry and cinnamon. There are also categories of white, normal or original. The original case passes more moisturiser, so this bag looks wet and brown.
The ingredients of snus are salt, water, and air-cured tobacco in Sweden and tobacco in the United States.
The processing of snus in Northern Europe is different than in the United States. Studies have shown that nicotine levels overlap between US and Swedish snus with significant variation in pH levels and non-protonated nicotine. When a product has higher pH levels, this increases nicotine levels which can lead to the product becoming more addictive due to higher levels of absorption into the body. In the study, the researchers found that levels of unprotonated nicotine were highest in European pouches and loose tobaccos. Swedish snus was found to have higher levels of nitrates (TSNA).
There were lower concentrations of pH, moisture, tobacco-specific carcinogenic nitrosamines, and combined nicotine in United States tobacco pouch products. There was additional research that showed total nicotine levels were higher in US snus.