Health risks of smoking compared to Swedish snus

Inhal Toxicol. 2005 Dec 1;17(13):741-8. doi: 10.1080/08958370500224698.


Interest in tobacco harm reduction strategies has raised the question of the comparative health risks of cigarette smoking and use of other tobacco products. Although there appears to be a general belief that a unique smokeless tobacco product called Swedish snus has fewer health risks than cigarettes, no one has systematically reviewed the literature and compared the data on health risks in a quantitative manner. We reviewed the literature to identify all analytic epidemiologic studies that provided quantitative risk estimates associated with Swedish snus and cigarette smoking in a single population, using a common reference group. Seven studies were identified that addressed eight health outcomes. Although few in number, these seven studies do provide quantitative evidence that, for certain health outcomes, the health risks associated with snus are lower than those associated with smoking. Specifically, this is true for lung cancer (based on one study), for oral cancer (based on one study), for gastric cancer (based on one study), for cardiovascular disease (based on three of four studies), and for all-cause mortality (based on one study). This review has likely omitted many of the adverse effects of cigarettes, but probably few of the potential health effects of snus. Continued investigation of the reduced health risks of Swedish snus compared to cigarette smoking is warranted.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Mouth Neoplasms / etiology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / etiology
  • Sweden
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / adverse effects*