The warning, which will concern many Swedes who have turned to snus as a healthier nicotine alternative to smoking, is based on the institute’s analysis of epidemiological and experimental studies carried out by the Karolinska Institute in recent years.
Certain studies indicate that snus can also increase the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, and that children could be born prematurely if mothers use snus during pregnancy. However, the Institute of Public Health said in its report that there is not yet enough evidence to be certain of the effect on births.
The institute said that its analysis showed that using snus increased the risk of cancer of the pancreas and of the mouth. But there are no research results suggesting that it causes other forms of cancer.
And while there is no evidence to suggest that using snus actually increases the risk of developing heart disease, it is clear that it does increase the risk of death for a person affected, for example, by a heart attack.
The details of how much snus is dangerous are not yet known, said Göran Pershagen, professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska.
“There’s not enough evidence to say how much the risk increases. But it is clear that snus is not unhazardous – pancreatic cancer is a relatively common form of cancer with a very poor survival rate,” he said.
“This is also about preventing cancer.”
Despite the fact that the study did not show that using snus increases the risk of other forms of cancer, it is still too early to rule it out, reckons Pershagen.
Sweden’s biggest producer of snus, Swedish Match, dismissed the report as irresponsible and self-serving.
“The institute has published a number of alarmist reports on snus over the years,” said Ulf Svensson, the information director at the company.
“But we remember that they had to give up on the discussions around snus and health warning text. The EU investigated the research and concluded that there is no increased risk of cancer from snus,” Svensson told TT.
He pointed to an international cancer study which, he said, contradicted the conclusion that using snus can lead to pancreatic cancer.
“Despite the fact that we have around a million ‘snussers’ in Sweden, we are almost at the bottom of the table in the western world when it comes to this form of cancer,” he said.
Ulf Svensson said that far from being a thorough scientific analysis, the report was a political move against Swedish Match and was based on a very selective interpretation of research results.