As statistics have suggested, most of us are no longer smoking cigarettes, right? And while many of us are reaching for vapes, many flavours are facing an imminent ban and some slightly worrying health effects have been noted.
So, for those of us who are starting their new year with the resolution to quit smoking and vaping may find themselves reaching for snus or nicotine pouches, which are rapidly becoming a more popular alternative. Studies have suggested the use of pouches amongst adults has doubled in the last two years – and while we’re yet to embrace nicotine pouches in the same way we’ve embraced vapes, the market continues to grow. It’s predicted that by 2026, the nicotine pouch industry could be worth as much as $33 billion (£26 billion).
But what just is ‘snus’, what is in it and can it really help us put down cigarettes and vapes for good? Cosmopolitan UK spoke to Libby Clarke, Managing Consultant of Toxicology at scientific consulting company Broughton, as well as pharmacist Ian Budd, to find out more.
What is snus?
Originating from Sweden, snus is a small tobacco pouch which is placed under the lip for around thirty minutes (think of it as the single use teabag of cigarettes). The pouch also contains a nicotine hit, explains Clarke.
“Nicotine is absorbed into the body by the buccal cavity,” she says – and for those of us who didn’t pay attention in biology, this is effectively the lining of your cheek and the back of your lips.
Does snus contain tobacco?
Snus from Sweden does contain the tobacco leaf. However, Swedish snus is banned in the UK – the nicotine pouches available to buy here in Britain do not contain any tobacco.
Are nicotine pouches or snus addictive?
We hate to break to you, but yes they are – both snus and nicotine pouches contain nicotine.
However, Clarke argues: “Nicotine from oral products is absorbed more slowly compared with inhaled products like cigarettes or vapes, therefore the addictive potential is thought to be lower.”
Are nicotine pouches or snus safe?
In theory, snus and nicotine pouches should be better for you than cigarettes. Nicotine is highly addictive, but it is the other chemicals in smoking tobacco that increase a person’s risk of cancers, lung problems (such as tar in the lungs) and heart disease.
Currently, there isn’t a great deal of data available on how safe these pouches are.
“The information we do have does not paint it in an entirely positive light,” Ian Budd explains. “As snus contains nicotine, it is seen as an addictive substance, as it’s the nicotine in tobacco products that causes addiction in the first place. Some studies have shown that there may be a link to higher rates of pancreatic cancer, heart failure, and diabetes, although research is still ongoing.”
Clarke also points towards the oral lesions which can occur through heavy usage of snus or nicotine pouches.
“This may be mitigated by changing the placement position of pouches,” she adds.
Are nicotine pouches or snus better for you than smoking or vaping?
Clarke indicates research papers, carried out within the last 15 years, suggests that using snus and nicotine pouches has fewer risks when compared to smoking.
“A study in 2014 suggested that snus confers only five percent of the harm of cigarettes,” she explains. “The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks concluded that snus use carried an overall risk reduction close to 100 per cent for respiratory disease (lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia), at least 50 per cent for cardiovascular disease and at least 50 per cent for oral and pharyngeal, oesophageal, and pancreatic cancers compared to cigarette smoking.”
However, as Budd points out, these studies are compared to regular smokers, with the sensible thing to abstain from tobacco and nicotine products altogether: “We would never recommend the use of snus or nicotine pouches for those who don’t smoke already.”
Can nicotine pouches or snus help you quit smoking?
Clarke believes nicotine pouches are a good stepping stone for people looking to cut down and eventually quit smoking.
“The difficulty that most smokers face when trying to quit is nicotine craving,” she explains. “Therefore, nicotine pouches may help when trying to quit smoking, as they offer a reduced harm way of delivering nicotine, which helps to reduce the craving
However, before you stock up on snus, Budd advises you see what else is out there.
“There are plenty of other nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products available that might be a better fit for you,” he says. “For example, nicotine gum, patches, and inhalators, which have years of data behind them to prove their efficacy and minimise risks.”
You can also read more on tobacco dependence, and replacement methods from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.