Background: It is well known that Swedish men have lower tobacco-related mortality than men in other European countries, but there are questions that need further investigation to what extent this is related to the specific patterns of tobacco use in Sweden, where use of snus, the Swedish low-nitrosamine oral tobacco, dominates over smoking in men but not in women. The recent WHO Global Report: Mortality Attributable to Tobacco provides a unique set of estimates of the health burden of tobacco in all countries of the world in the year 2004, and these data can help elucidating the above-mentioned questions.
Methods: For Sweden and all other European Union Member States mortality data for a number of tobacco-related causes of death were extracted from the WHO Report. The size of the mortality advantage for selected causes of death in different age groups of Swedish men compared to men of the same age in Europe as a whole was calculated in terms of ratios of death rates attributable to tobacco. Differences between age groups with respect to tobacco-related mortality were analyzed with respect to differences in terms of development and status of smoking and snus use. The analyses also paid attention to differences between countries regarding tobacco control regulations.
Findings: Among men in the European Union Member States the lowest level of mortality attributable to tobacco was consistently found in Sweden, while Swedish women showed levels similar to European average. A strong co-variation was found between the mortality advantage and the degree of dominance of snus use in the different age groups of Swedish men. Among Swedish women there are no age groups with dominant use of snus, and similar observations were therefore not possible for women.
Conclusion: The above findings support the assumption that the widespread use of snus instead of cigarettes among Swedish men may be a major part of the explanation behind their position with Europe's lowest mortality attributable to tobacco.
Keywords: Europe; Mortality; Smoking; Snus; Sweden.