Swedish snus can be as damaging to the fetus as smoking

May 15, 2017, Karolinska Institutet
Credit: Vera Kratochvil/public domain

While it is well known that smoking while pregnant can damage the fetus, the effects of using Swedish snus (oral moist snuff) have been more mooted. Now, a new thesis from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows that using snus while pregnant carries the same level of risk as smoking as regards to stillbirth, preterm birth, cleft lip and palate, and neonatal apnea. However, it pays off to quit using snus early in the pregnancy, before the first visit at the antenatal care, as doing so gives no observable increase in risk.

Anna Gunnerbeck at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Women's and Children's Health has recently defended her thesis on how the nicotine consumption of pregnant affects their unborn babies. Cigarettes contain some 4,000 substances, while Swedish snus contains almost only nicotine. Basing research on women who use snus provides unique information about what kind of damage nicotine does to the fetus.

Her doctoral thesis is based on data from the National Board of Health and Welfare's Medical Birth Register, which provides information on the health of mother and baby for effectively all pregnancies in Sweden from the point of entry into antenatal care to a month after birth.

Not a healthier alternative

Snus gives even higher doses of nicotine than cigarettes and can be taken more frequently. By charting the tobacco habits of and the state of health of their babies, Anna Gunnerbeck's research group found that using snus carried an equally high risk of stillbirth, , and palate and neonatal apnea.

"Snus is often promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking, and it may be for adult users," says Dr Gunnerbeck. "But the nicotine in the snus can damage fetuses. Young women who start using snus are unaware of the risk they subject their unborn babies to when they use snus while pregnant."

Important to reach out to young women

Anna Gunnerbeck's research also shows that the health risk to the fetus is significantly reduced if the mother stops using snus very early in her pregnancy.

"If you stop using snus as soon as you find out you're pregnant, the risk of fetal damage doesn't increase," continues Dr Gunnerbeck. "So it's important that we reach out with this health message to young people. Ideally before they start using tobacco, since the nicotine in snus, like that in cigarettes, is highly addictive and very hard to give up."

Sweden is uniquely placed to study the effects of nicotine in pregnancy given that snus has been in widespread use here for such a long time. The results are, however, of global interest since e-cigarettes and patches are often marketed as healthy alternatives to smoking, and the use of the former is increasing in many countries.

Explore further: 'Snus' users run greater risk of type 2 diabetes

More information: Prenatal nicotine exposure and effects on the health of the newborn. hdl.handle.net/10616/45575

Related Stories

'Snus' users run greater risk of type 2 diabetes

February 6, 2017
Consuming one or more pot of "snus" – Swedish snuff or dipping tobacco – per day increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 70 per cent. This is the same risk increase as previously seen for smokers who smoke ...

Smokeless tobacco product snus may increase risk of death among prostate cancer patients

October 12, 2016
The smokeless tobacco product snus, which is used mainly in Sweden but also is sold in the U.S., may increase the risk that men with prostate cancer will die from their disease, and the risk that they'll die prematurely from ...

Myth that snuff users today have fewer dental caries

November 26, 2012
It is a myth that snus (Swedish snuff) users today have fewer dental caries. On the contrary, some types of nicotine-free snus contain both carbohydrates and starch that increase the risk of cavities. Those are the findings ...

Snus use in Norway has tripled in five years

November 20, 2014
The increase in Scandinavian snus consumption in Norway is highest among young people, according to a new report from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Quitting smokeless tobacco after heart attack may extend life expectancy

June 23, 2014
People who stop using smokeless tobacco after a heart attack may extend their life expectancy similar to people who stop smoking, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Recommended for you

Secondhand smoke causing thousands of still births in developing countries

July 20, 2018
The study reveals that more than 40% of all pregnant women in Pakistan are exposed to secondhand smoke—causing approximately 17,000 still births in a year.

Eating iron-fortified grain improves students' attention, memory

July 18, 2018
Adolescent students in a rural school in India who consumed an iron-biofortified version of the grain pearl millet exhibited improved attention and memory compared to those who consumed conventional pearl millet, according ...

Sugar improves memory in over-60s, helping them work smarter

July 18, 2018
Sugar improves memory in older adults – and makes them more motivated to perform difficult tasks at full capacity – according to new research by the University of Warwick.

Vaping tied to blood clots—in mice

July 18, 2018
A new study involving mice raises another concern about the danger of e-cigarettes in humans after experiments showed that short-term exposure to the device's vapors appeared to increase the risk of clot formation.

Lowering hospitals' Medicare costs proves difficult

July 18, 2018
A payment system that provides financial incentives for hospitals that reduce health-care costs for Medicare patients did not lower costs as intended, according to a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine ...

People who tan in gyms tan more often, and more addictively, than others, new research shows

July 18, 2018
Gyms are places people go to get healthier. But nearly half the gyms in the U.S. contain a potentially addictive carcinogen—tanning beds, report UConn researchers in the July 18 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.