british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2010 - Smokeless tobacco

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Sustainability Report 2010

The research, development and test marketing of smokeless tobacco products, including snus, have been important parts of our approach to tobacco harm reduction.

Snus – the facts

Snus is a heat-treated, finely ground, moist tobacco sold either loose or in pouches that are placed under the upper lip.

There is increasing consensus that snus presents substantially lower overall health risks than cigarettes, such as far lower risks of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, smokeless does not mean harmless. Research on snus and heart disease is less clear and some public health bodies have concluded that snus is a cause of pancreatic cancer and other diseases.

The sale of snus is currently banned in the European Union, except in Sweden. Sales of loose snus only are allowed in Denmark.

Smokeless tobaccoSmokeless science

In 2010, at the annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT), we presented several research studies on snus, including a consumption study of snus use in Norway, which complemented an earlier study in Sweden. We also submitted the results of a study to be presented at the SRNT annual meeting in 2011. This study compared the rate at which nicotine is taken up into the bloodstream from using cigarettes, snus or a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product. Loose and pouched snus were shown to have similar profiles at similar nicotine levels and their profiles were different from those seen for the NRT product and cigarettes. These studies add to the scientific characterisation of snus and its use.


Our test marketing of snus in South Africa and Canada has developed our understanding of the difficulties of introducing this new product to tobacco consumers. Continuing issues include a low level of awareness of this category among consumers and their understanding of snus. Due to the regulatory environment in both Canada and South Africa, it is not possible to communicate the relative risks of snus compared with cigarettes to adult smokers.

We believe this has contributed to a low uptake in these test markets, which contrasts sharply with Sweden and Norway where snus use is increasingly popular. Therefore, we have scaled back our test markets in Canada and South Africa and have put on hold our plans to move into a new test market in 2011. However, we remain hopeful that snus will eventually have a role to play in tobacco harm reduction.

We are currently reviewing how we might best refocus our activities in new reduced-risk product categories.

Smokeless tobacco: what's next?

We plan to submit for publication extensive chemical analyses of toxicants in various styles of smokeless tobacco products. In 2011, we will review our approach to snus test marketing. We will also continue to engage widely on the role a regulated form of low-toxicant smokeless tobacco could play in a tobacco harm reduction strategy to reduce the public health impacts of smoking.