A sorry silence on snus
Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 14:16
Simon Clark

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:

Forest supports harm reduction and choice but unlike some organisations we are not proactively campaigning for the legalisation of snus. Would be happy to comment, if asked, but we have never pretended to be advocates or experts on the issue.

— Forest (@Forest_Smoking) March 31, 2018

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.

Absence of reaction from pro-snus lobby is disappointing. No press release, nothing. Doesn’t guarantee coverage (as I well know) but remaining mute while this story gathers legs is poor. https://t.co/npg8usFv0y

— Simon Clark (@simonclark_) March 31, 2018
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