Nasal snuff - how bad?
November 20, 2012 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Tobacco snuff - terrible, bad, or sort of bad?

A friend of mine recently started using english-style nasal snuff. He claims that while it is of course bad for you, its not as bad as dipping tobacco (such as Skoal) due to being steam-cured (like Snus) rather than dry-cured.

I only found one respectable seeming article on this subject, which seems to corroborate his theory. Anyone out there know of more research on the topic?
posted by Vhanudux to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Use of snuff leads to increase in head and neck tumors.

Risks of using smokeless tobacco.

Health harms from smokeless tobacco use.

And from the American Academy of Otolarynology

Is smokeless tobacco less harmful than cigarettes?

In 1986, the U.S. Surgeon General declared that the use of smokeless tobacco “is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes. It can cause cancer and a number of noncancerous conditions and can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence.” Also, since 1991, the National Cancer Institute has recommended that the public avoid the use of all tobacco products, due to their high levels of nitrosamines.

In a recent study, cancer researchers found that oral tobacco products, including lozenges and moist snuff, are not a good alternative to smoking, since the levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines in smokeless tobacco and lozenges are very high. Some smokeless products contain the highest amounts of nicotine that can be readily absorbed by the body.

That's just from a cursory search that took me about three minutes. There's a lot more out there if you want to see it.
posted by cooker girl at 11:47 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even if it's not as bad for you as other forms of tobacco, that's like saying playing Russian roulette with the gun aimed at your shoulder isn't as dangerous as playing it with the gun aimed at your head. True; and either way you might be fine - but both are risky.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:12 PM on November 20, 2012

Let's not get carried away here. Is it more healthy for you than smoked or chewed tobacco? Doubtful, but maybe the real issue is that it's far less gross for everyone else in the vicinity of the user.

I think if he's going to use tobacco anyway, snuff seems like the least offensive option.
posted by colin_l at 12:20 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I see you are looking for a comparison between nasal snuff and other smokeless tobacco options.

I think you may be interested in this more detailed article, which elaborates on the differences and the risks. ("Smokeless tobacco and oral cancer: a review of the risks and determinants" by Rodu, C. et al.)

What I am seeing there is that actually, relative risk scores (RR) for dry snuff and oral cancers are actually higher than for moist snuff - the conclusion of the article even goes so far as to say that there is really no elevated risk of oral cancers with Swedish moist snuff, perhaps a very small risk with American moist snuff, but potentially a significantly elevated risk with dry snuff.

The dry snuff also was found to have higher TSNA level (tobacco-specific nitrosamines) than the moist snuff, which is important because that is one of the major carcinogens in the smokeless tobacco - the TSNA levels seem to directly correlate with the risk of oral cancers, with the Swedish moist snuff having the lowest levels. The article also points out that there was some speculation prior to that article's publication about TSNA levels in smokeless tobacco and that speculation was not based on solid research, and it also seems to imply that maybe these days the TSNA levels are different than they were in the past.

The article also notes several times that dry snuff has been less extensively studied than moist snuff and that certainly could account for part of the reason that we are not as familiar with the risks. Just because the studies have not been done does not mean the risks are not there.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:45 PM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This 2007 pubilcation from the Royal College of Physicians (UK) cites the 2003 article in the OP and the 2004 Rodu article from treehorn + bunny. Scroll down for a free pdf of the book. However, they found nothing new to add since then, remarking that research into dry nasal snuff was 'sparse.'

I didn't see anything on the MrSnuff site or Toque's site (or googling for 'stam cured snuff) about their product (or any nasal snuff) being steam-cured instead of dry-cured. If true, then logically that brand would be safer than other/previous versions (though that hasn't actually been shown yet and probably won't be investigated). If your friend is saying his snuff is miles safer than smoking, he's right. If his brand is steamed, it's probably safer than previously believed. If he's saying it's as low-risk as Snus, that has yet to be proven (and is probably not true unless Toque is, in fact, steam-cured like Snus).

I would imagine the question of relative risks of nasal snuff products will go unanswered, and most current/future research will focus on products currently increasing in popularity (snus and electronic cigarettes).
posted by K.P. at 5:52 AM on November 21, 2012

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