There is currently an active public health debate over whether snus could play a role in harm reduction for tobacco users.
Our research programme on snus broadly focuses in two areas:
The chemical and physical characteristics of manufactured cigarettes are fairly similar around the world but smokeless tobacco products can vary considerably.
Unlike some other smokeless tobacco products, snus manufacture includes a heat treatment process similar to pasteurisation. This stops bacterial activity that would otherwise cause additional nitrosamine formation. It is also manufactured to a voluntary product standard that limits the levels of certain toxicants.
Our research covers:
We are also working with other laboratories on proficiency trials that seek to improve the methods used for snus analyses.
There is no standard method for applying snus - or extracts of snus - to in vitro test systems such as the Ames test. We are looking at ways to develop such tests and at developing new toxicological tests that might be more relevant to the disease end-points observed in snus users. Part of this work involves the development and validation of a model for irritation in the oral mucosa.
Consumer research in Sweden has recently provided new data on consumption patterns in men and women which should be helpful with risk assessments. This research included questions on:
We have also been researching consumer perceptions of the relative risks of snus and cigarettes in countries where snus use is new.
The health risks associated with snus use are different from those associated with cigarette smoking, yet both involve tobacco products and some exposure to toxicants in tobacco.
We are considering whether clinical trials involving measures of biomarkers of exposure and harm in subjects who are switching from smoking to snus might be useful. We hope to get the views of public health scientists on the design of any such study.