Snus Sales Triples in Switzerland, Raising Health Concerns

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Snus Sales Triples in Switzerland, Raising Health Concerns
Swiss youth embrace nose tobacco, raising health concerns as sales triple, prompting debate on age restrictions.

According to NTB News on May 6th, snuff is becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland. More and more people in Switzerland, especially teenagers, are placing small packets containing nicotine under their upper lip, known as using snuff. This trend is causing concern among local dentists, who are seeing the consequences of this smoking behavior in their clinics. Snuff is made from dried and ground tobacco, seasoned with various salts, and added with different flavors. Additionally, there are so-called nicotine pouches, which are different from traditional snuff as they do not contain tobacco but still contain nicotine.


According to data from the Swiss Federal Customs Administration, sales of chewing tobacco, nasal snuff, and nicotine pouches in Switzerland reached 206 million Swiss francs last year, nearly triple the amount in 2019. The Federal Court's decision in 2019 was also a significant factor in the increased use of nasal snuff, ruling that the national ban on nasal snuff lacked legal basis.


Christoph Ramseier, a professor at the University of Bern's periodontology clinic, has noticed a rise in the use of nasal snuff, which can often lead to a condition known as gingival recession in the oral region. He told NZZ that in places where nasal snuff is used, the gums can become irritated, leading to gum recession and exposing the tooth roots. Even if individuals stop using nasal snuff, gum recession may continue to exist.


Lansel said, "The rate at which gum recession occurs is a personal factor that depends on the thickness of the gums. Once the tooth roots are exposed, individuals are more likely to be sensitive to cold and have an increased risk of developing lesions at the exposed area in the long term."


Lancel emphasized that young people receiving orthodontic treatment should be especially cautious. For them, their gums may become very thin due to the braces, and using snuff on top of that could lead to problems. Additionally, the use of snuff can also damage other oral mucosa.


"Nicotine pouches containing toxic and carcinogenic substances, while lower than chewing tobacco, can still cause thickening of the oral mucosa and formation of white wrinkles," Ransel said. These white wrinkles, known as leukoplakia, are early signs of cancer. However, research has not yet yielded significant results on the frequency of cancer among snuff users. Overall, the risk of cancer increases if smoking and alcohol consumption occur concurrently. "The good news is that if snuff use is stopped, leukoplakia will gradually fade," added Ransel.


Markus Meury, spokesperson for the Swiss Addiction Research Foundation (Sucht Schweiz), stated that the consumption of snuff among Swiss adolescents is also increasing. According to a study released last year, the proportion of 15-year-old boys who use snuff at least once a month has doubled from 2018 to 2022, reaching 13%, while the proportion of girls of the same age has increased from 1% to 6%.


The Zurich Addiction Research Foundation is now looking forward to the implementation of new tobacco product legislation and initiatives to ban tobacco advertising. This law will standardize the age for the sale of all nicotine products in Switzerland to 18 years old, and prohibit ads targeted towards children and teenagers. However, the proposal did not pass in the parliament session in February and will require renegotiation. It is unclear whether it will be able to take effect as planned in mid-2024.


However, even if the law is quickly enacted, Meri believes that strict enforcement is necessary. "As long as nicotine advertising is still targeted at young people, teenagers will want to buy these products and will find a way to do so," he says. He emphasizes that strict enforcement of the law is crucial, with the goal being to delay people from starting to use nicotine for as long as possible. This is because the earlier someone starts using nicotine, the more severe their dependence will be in the future.


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