Swedes warned snus tobacco raises diabetes risk

A woman shows portions of snus, a moist powder tobacco product that is consumed by placing it under the lip. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Snus, a moist tobacco product, is placed under the user's lip

Researchers in Sweden have issued a warning over snus - the country's favourite nicotine hit - challenging claims it is a risk-free alternative to smoking.

Snus is a moist tobacco which is placed under the user's lip.

The product, which comes in flavours including mint, lemon and coffee, is banned in all EU states except Sweden.

A study in The Journal of Internal Medicine found using snus increases the risk of developing diabetes.

Researchers said that one or more pots of snus per day increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 70% - the same risk level as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day.

Five to six pots a week - a slightly lower consumption level - increases the risk by 40%.

Researchers from Umea University, Lund University and the Karolinska Institute followed 54,500 snus users between 1990 and 2013 to compile the study.

Nicotine to blame

The link between snus and diabetes is nicotine, which can hamper the body's sensitivity to insulin.

This hormone helps regulate blood sugar levels, and diabetes can develop when the body does not react to insulin effectively.

Sweden has the lowest number of smokers in the EU, at around 16.7%. But around 19% of Swedish men and 4% of women use snus - some in a bid to quit cigarettes.

Many believe that snus is still a safer choice, as it contains fewer toxins than tobacco smoke. The link between snus and heart disease or cancer is therefore weaker than with smoking.

Dr Sofia Carlsson, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, told The Local: "The current picture in Sweden is that snus is not as dangerous as smoking, and there is some evidence for that too - but importantly, there haven't been that many studies on Swedish snus.

"Our results suggest you should leave both snus and smoking alone if you want to reduce your risk of diabetes."

Meanwhile, Fredrik Peyron of Swedish Match, a leading manufacturer of snus, described it as "the world's most successful smoking substitute" because of the low prevalence of smoking in Sweden.

Read more about snus:

Top EU health official resigns over tobacco row

Former EU commissioner loses snus court battle

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