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DHSC announces that the UK will not legalise Snus

a bowl of snus

DHSC announces that it will not legalise the world’s most successful smoking substitute

  1. The health department has stated that it will not legalise the oral nicotine product snus

  2. The product has driven the world’s most dramatic falls in smoking in Scandinavia

  3. It is popular among hardcore smokers who do not want to use inhaled products

  4. ASH has previously called the ban “illogical” saying that snus is “over 100 times less harmful” than smoking

The UK health department has announced that it will “not include proposals” to legalise the Swedish smoking alternative snus in its forthcoming tobacco control plan. [1]  The announcement comes despite snus have been behind the world’s most rapid declines in smoking in Scandinavia and the product having been recently authorised by the US FDA and the Swiss authorities. [2][3]

In a response to a Parliamentary Question the health minister Maggie Throup admitted that the decision was not the result the department having conducted any “formal assessment” of the relative risks. The department also said that it had not looked at the data on the different mortality rates from tobacco related diseases between the UK and Sweden.

In Sweden snus has driven daily smoking rates below 4%. [4] Meanwhile in Norway it has been responsible for smoking rates among young women plunging from 30% to 1% in 17 years [5].

In terms of its impact on health In December DHSC said that it recognises that “the risks of adverse health outcomes caused by snus are far lower than smoking”. [6]

Action on Smoking on Health has previously estimated it at “over 100 times safer” and attacked the contradictory, illogical law on tobacco which leaves cigarettes legal while snus”. [7] For its part, The Royal College of Physicians has said snus is 1,000 times less harmful than cigarettes. [8]

In response to the DHSC announcement Professor David Nutt, Imperial College London said today that “ignoring the remarkable health benefits of snus is an extremely retrograde step. Snus has almost totally eliminated smoking in Sweden and is on the way to doing the same in Norway – just a few years after being introduced. There is no evidence that snus is a risk factor for any form of cancer. There is overwhelming evidence that it reduces harm.”

The availability of non-inhaled alternatives to smoking has been highlighted by a study showing that 51% of current smokers are ex vapers. [9]


[4] Daily smoking fell in Sweden to 4% in 2020 (7% of Swedes smoke of whom 57% are daily smokers = 4%). See page 22 and page 8:

[5] Norway’s smoking rate among young women fell from 30% to 1% between 2000 and 2017:

[6] “the risks of adverse health outcomes caused by snus are far lower than smoking” PQ response:

[7] Action on Smoking and Health: “the contradictory, illogical law on tobacco… leaves cigarettes legal while snus, which is over 100 times less harmful, is banned.”

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