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Saturday
Mar312018

A sorry silence on snus

Snus is taking a bit of a hammering. It began on Thursday with the publication of a Daily Mail 'investigation':

'THE DRUG THAT IS SWAMPING FOOTBALL', the headline screamed.

Sportsmail's investigation reveals use of banned stimulant 'snus' prevalent in the sport ... with some players using drug during matches

Since then almost every tabloid, and even the BBC, has piled in:

What is snus? Chewing tobacco adored by England star Jamie Vardy does far worse than just cause cancer (The Sun)

What is snus? Previously used by Jamie Vardy and banned amid cancer links, the stimulant flooding the Premier League (Mirror)

Premier League footie stars 'using banned TOBACCO during matches', investigation claims (Daily Star)

The story has even gone global.

America's leading anti-tobacco campaigner Stanton Glantz told the Sun:

Linked to several cancers, snus is unequivocally a bad thing. Tobacco firms promote it as “safer” than smoking, but whether you jump from the tenth storey of a building or the 20th, the effect is the same. Studies show kids who see their favourite sportsmen using tobacco are more likely to go on to use it too. And tobacco products like snus or e-cigarettes are gateway drugs to cigarettes. So these sportsmen are harming a lot more people than just themselves.

Cancer Research UK also commented:

"Snus use has been linked to pancreatic and oesophageal cancer."

Absent from any of these reports was a response from the pro-snus camp – you know, the people who are always telling us that 'snus saves lives'.

It's not easy, I know, getting your voice heard in these circumstances. You should at least try however and it's now almost 40 hours since the Mail published its 'investigation', plenty of time for pro-snus advocates to issue a statement (or statements) in response.

Instead ... silence.

Snus is rarely in the news in the UK where oral tobacco has been banned for 28 years and the overwhelming majority of people are, if not unaware of its existence, ignorant of its harm reduction role in Sweden.

The Mail 'investigation', and the subsequent media coverage, was – and still is – a great opportunity for advocates to smash perceptions of this unfairly maligned product.

What frustrates me is that far too many harm reduction activists are happy to attend tobacco control conferences, rub shoulders with public health lobbyists, talk repeatedly about 'saving a billion lives' etc, but when it comes to tackling media firestorms like this they go AWOL.

Had I known the #SnusSavesLives lobby was going to adopt a vow of silence I would have issued a statement myself (on behalf of Forest). However, as we tweeted this morning:

It could be this story will run its course over the weekend. The damage however may take rather longer to repair, especially if football clubs start to ban the use of snus by their players.

Nevertheless, if I was a snus advocate I know what I'd be doing this weekend. I'd be on the phone to national newspapers offering to write an article that defends not only snus but nicotine in general.

After all, when even its detractors admit that nicotine improves 'alertness, concentration, strength and power' it's amazing that employers don't make its consumption compulsory!

Update: Good news! The New Nicotine Alliance has (finally) issued a response to the Mail's 'investigation'. You can read it here.

Sarah Jakes, chairman of the NNA, tweets to say they've "had this in hand since we first saw the story yesterday lunchtime. Response written this morning, signed off and sent to journos at lunchtime, then published on website."

So, nothing to do with this post or the tweet below which I posted at 10:43 this morning. Happy to clear that up.

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Reader Comments (9)

Glad I stopped donating to CRUK. 'Has been linked' many years ago. Sweden's cancer incidences are available on the CRUK website, as is it's smoking prevalence - the lowest in the developed world.

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 16:58 | Unregistered CommenterJ Bagley

Mortality from Oesophagal cancer in males in the UK has nearly doubled in the UK since the 1960s at the same time that smoking prevalence has been falling
see here.

I am sick of these statistical charlatans.

The numbers do not lie, it is the anti-smoking industry that lies.

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 17:59 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Sorry Simon but you're very wrong on this. I saw a rough draft of the NNA response last night. I've written for them and everything published has to go through the board. It was planned and drafted well before your tweet and this article.

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 19:33 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

If you say so.

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 20:08 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Calling me a liar, Simon? Yes, I read a draft last night, your article is fatally flawed. Sorry, but you've got this one wrong. Also discussed it with a guy from Brazilian TV before I drove him back to the station.

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 20:32 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

Once again Stan Glantz is voicing his prejudice against anything vaguely related to tobacco. His quackery ignores all valid since and should be ignored. Snus, contrary to his assertions is not related to several cancers. The last potential link to pancreatic cancer has been discounted. But old Stan doesn't read actual scientific reports just the ideologically tainted tobacco control propaganda. Sinus is being unfairly attacked, but you could say the same about vaping and second hand smoke. It's time to expose tobacco control's lies.

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 22:36 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Please forgive the typos in my prior response (autocorrect run amok). Paragraph should read:

Once again Stan Glantz is voicing his prejudice against anything vaguely related to tobacco. His quackery ignores all valid science and should be ignored. Snus, contrary to his assertions is not related to several cancers. The last potential link to pancreatic cancer has been discounted. But old Stan doesn't read actual scientific reports just the ideologically tainted tobacco control propaganda. Snus is being unfairly attacked, but you could say the same about vaping and second hand smoke. It's time to expose tobacco control's lies.

Sunday, April 1, 2018 at 7:10 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Vapers understand and can see how their product has been smeared but sadly cling onto the billion lies about smoking because it helps their cause.

Sunday, April 1, 2018 at 12:59 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Talking of statistical nonsense.

Does this recent (28 October 2011) anti-smoking missive use the most up to date statistics on the prevelence of diseases according to smoking status? No. Does it even use a randomised national sample? No. It uses numbers gathered by an anti-smoking outfit in the 80s, using 77,000 volunteers to recruit a million people. So there would be no way of knowing that the people doing recruiting did not know the smoking status and disease status of the people they are enrolling in to the study. A complete failure to eliminate selection bias.

We know the smoking status of pretty much everyone who has a disease why not use these numbers instead?

Why not have every country in the world that has these numbers publish them?

Starting with Public Health England.

Then we will finally know the truth about smoking and health.

Sunday, April 1, 2018 at 15:04 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

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