Aims: To describe how snus use has reduced smoking among men in Sweden, and to estimate how smoking-attributable lung cancer mortality would decline in other European Union countries if they had the smoking prevalence of Sweden.
Methods: Lung cancer mortality rates (LCMRs) and numbers of deaths among men and women age 45+ years in 25 EU countries in 2002 were obtained from the World Health Organization mortality database, and the number of lung cancer deaths expected in each country at the LCMR of Sweden was calculated. LCMRs for EU countries were obtained during the period 1950-2004, and per capita consumption of nicotine from cigarettes and snus was estimated for men in Sweden from 1931 to 2004.
Results: There were 172,000 lung cancer deaths among men in the EU in 2002. If all EU countries had the LCMR of men in Sweden, there would have been 92,000 (54%) fewer deaths. In contrast, the LCMR among Swedish women was the sixth highest in the EU; at the Swedish rate, deaths among EU women would have increased by 14,500 (26%). These LCMR patterns were in place for most of the last 50 years, and LCMRs among Swedish men can be correlated with snus and cigarette consumption.
Conclusions: This study shows that snus use has had a profound effect on smoking prevalence and LCMRs among Swedish men. While it cannot be proven that snus would have the same effect in other EU countries, the potential reduction in smoking-attributable deaths is considerable.