The world’s one billion smokers need options to help them quit smoking, says oncologist and researcher Lars Rutqvist, who explains why nicotine pouches can be a safer choice for those looking to quit cigarettes.
“It is simply not enough to tell smokers that it’s dangerous to smoke,” he tells Snusforumet in a series of filmed interviews.
“You have to provide them with a choice.”
A respected oncologist in Sweden, Rutqvist has seen firsthand the damage smoking can cause. As a result, he began looking into the potential benefits for smokers of switching to less harmful alternatives like Swedish snus.
“A lot of smokers are actively looking for alternatives,” he explains.
“Many years ago people thought that nicotine was the culprit when it came to smoking-related disease. But we now know that’s totally incorrect.”
Ever since the 1970s, researchers have been investigating tobacco harm reduction in hopes of reducing smoking-related diseases by offering smokers less harmful alternatives.
“It’s the combustion products in tobacco smoke that cause all the health problems related to conventional cigarettes,” he explains.
The ‘ultimate’ harm reduction product
While claiming that Swedish snus was less harmful than smoking was considered controversial in the 1980s, that view is generally accepted today thanks to the publication of several important studies showing there is no connection between snus and cancer.
According to Rutqvist, the development of nicotine pouches represents an important milestone in efforts to offer safer alternatives to adult consumers who want to quit cigarettes.
Nicotine pouches provide users with nicotine in a way similar to Swedish snus, yet contain no tobacco. Neither snus nor nicotine pouches give off any of the harmful carcinogens contained in cigarette smoke.
“Nicotine pouches are really the ultimate harm-reduction product,” he says,
No shortage of smokers to reach
As nicotine pouches have grown in popularity, some have raised concerns that the product was developed specifically to appeal to young people and entice them into lifelong nicotine addiction.
Rutqvist refutes this claim, however, emphasizing that nicotine pouches – like all nicotine and tobacco products – are not meant for young people, but for adult smokers looking for safer alternatives.
There’s no need to target young people when there are already over one billion adult smokers in the world.
“There is absolutely no shortage of people for the industry to try to reach with these new products,” he says.
Nicotine pouches ‘should be regulated’
Evidence from Sweden supports Rutqvist’s argument. The availability of snus has helped Sweden achieve the EU’s lowest smoking rates. In addition, overall use of tobacco use in the population has also gone down as well.
“Consumer surveys clearly show that people who are interested in these products are current tobacco users, whereas current non-users of tobacco products show very little, if any, interest,” he explains.
He is also adamant about the importance of implementing proper regulations.
“All products that deliver nicotine should be regulated in some way,” says Rutqvist, who adds that they are “adult products” that shouldn’t be accessible to people under 18.
“[Regulations] should be based on the potential for adverse effects of the product. And if you follow that logic, regular cigarettes should be the most tightly controlled product category, whereas snus and nicotine pouches don’t need to be regulated as strictly.”
The importance of consumer choice
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 2017 roadmap acknowledged that some forms of nicotine delivery are less harmful than others, opening up the vision of a world where cigarettes may ultimately be replaced by innovative, low-risk products.
The future envisioned by the FDA echoes the trajectory already taken by Sweden thanks to snus. According to Rutqvist, providing a choice of a safer alternative was key.
“The development we’ve seen in Sweden over the last decades was not something driven by any decisions made by authorities. It was based on consumer choice,” he says.
To view all the filmed interviews with Lars Rutqvist, click here.