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Snuffed Out: New York Times Takes Aim at “Snus”
August 10, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Article ignores evidence for harm reduction; quotes only those opposed to smokeless tobacco product

In an article headlined, “No Smoke, No Foul? Critics Disagree,” the New York Times business section presented a remarkably one-sided article on the marketing of “snus,” a smokeless tobacco product which Swedish health experts have advocated as a way to reduce smoking-related harm.

The article highlighted plans to introduce snus to the U.S. market, where it has previously been unavailable. Though it quoted three health experts, all of them were opposed to the product and none cited any research studies. They simply concluded, without any data to back their statements, that snus would “not be harm reduction,” but “harm creation.”

Although there are numerous American, British and Swedish experts who have argued in favor of “snus” (because the risk of lung cancer from smoking is far greater than the risks of cancer related to oral tobacco use), none were quoted by the Times.

Nor did the story mention that Sweden, the only European country that currently permits the use of snus, has the lowest tobacco-related death rate among developed countries and is the only country to meet the World Health Organization’s goal of cutting adult smoking rates below 20 percent before the year 2000. Sweden also has the lowest proportion of male smokers in Europe.  

A simple search of the Times’ archives would have revealed an op-ed summarizing the harm reduction argument for snus and the data supporting it.

It may be too much to ask that reporters use Google or PubMed or Nexis, but surely it’s not to much to ask that they check their own paper