May 9, 2007
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (865) 566-6171
UMDNJ Expert Questions Wisdom of Ban on Smokeless Tobacco
NEW BRUNSWICK — In an article to be published this week, Dr. Jonathan Foulds, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, questions the automatic condemnation by many public health advocates of snus, a smokeless tobacco product currently being test-marketed in the United States. Snus is widely used in Sweden but is banned (as are all oral tobacco products) in other European countries and Australia.
“It is a perverse public-health policy that makes an addictive drug widely available in its most harmful form, yet bans or fails to properly inform consumers of availability of that drug in a much less harmful form,” writes Dr. Foulds and his co-author Dr. Lynn Kozlowski, professor and chair of the Department of Health Behavior at the University of Buffalo. Their commentary appears in the May 12 edition of the international medical journal, The Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com/).
Snus (pronounced “snûs” or “snoos ”) is a moist, ground oral tobacco product that is typically placed behind the upper lip for about 30 minutes and then discarded. It is pasteurized so that it contains lower levels of harmful chemicals than most other forms of smokeless tobacco. Snus is available as either a loose ground product or in small, teabag-like packets. While snus does carry some health risks, Drs. Foulds and Kozlowski reported that it has been estimated to be 90 percent less harmful than cigarettes. They note, for example, that snus appears to pose no risk for lung cancer, oral cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In Sweden, the product has become very popular among men over recent decades and has replaced cigarettes as their most used tobacco product. Consequently, Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in Europe and also has very low rates of male lung and oral cancer.
“That’s not to say that clinicians should advise their smoking patients to switch to snus. We have safe and effective medicines to help smokers quit.” Dr. Foulds said. “However, we should allow snus to compete with cigarettes for market share. If people are going to become addicted to nicotine or are going to try tobacco, they should be able to use a product that is markedly less harmful than cigarettes. Health professionals should advise patients that they would be better to quit tobacco altogether.”
To request an interview with Dr. Foulds, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,700 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.