Swedish Snus on CBS 60 Minutes

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Going Smokeless - about Swedish snus and alternatives to smoking

Watch CBS News Videos Online Part of transcript from CBS 60 Minutes - Going Smokeless:

Think smokeless tobacco, and you probably conjure up something distinctly unappealing: a bulging mouthful of wet, brown goo that is smelly and spitty, brown and drooly.


Dr. Karl Fagerstrom agrees that snus, which originated in his home country of Sweden, is nowhere near as harmful as cigarettes. He is a nicotine addiction scientist who was awarded a medal from the World Health Organization for his work on medications to help smokers quit

Asked if he can put a percentage on how much less harmful snus is than smoking, Dr. Fagerstrom said, "There has been many authorities, the Royal College of Physicians in UK for example, and they say it's somewhere between 99 to 90 percent less harmful than smoking. And I do agree with that."

Dr Fagerstrom says snus is automatically less harmful because there’s no smoke and no inhaling, the cause of most tobacco-related disease

"It doesn’t have any impact on the respiratory airways. It may not cause any cancer at all except for a possibility that it might slightly increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, which is not a very common cancer", he replied. Dr Fagerstrom says that smoking has a higher risk of Pancreatic cancer than Swedish snus.

Dr Fagerstrom says snus - which has the same level of nicotine as cigarettes - may raise blood pressure, but doesn’t cause heart disease.

"The funny thing is that with the Swedish sort of snus, it hasn’t been found in studies that it does cause oral cancer", Fagerstrom said.

Unlike American chewing tobacco that does cause cancer of the mouth, Swedish snus is regulated by the government as a food product, so the levels of toxins and carcinogens are kept to a bare minimum. That's why doctors in Sweden recommend snus to people who simply can't stop smoking, even though it's clearly an addictive substance. They're following a controversial medical practice called "Harm reduction" and groups like the Royal College of Physicians are pushing it for smokers , saying that less hazardous products like snus "can save millions of lives".

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