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Public Health (13-07-2007)

Commission launches consultation process on smokeless tobacco products

The European Commission and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) launched today a consultation process on a scientific opinion on smokeless tobacco products (STP). The consultation will run until September 28, 2007.
 
On June 21, SCENIHR adopted a preliminary report on the health effects of STP to provide the Commission with a sound scientific basis for developing and implementing policies on smokeless tobacco. The opinion addresses health effects and addiction potential related to the use of STP and examines their role in smoking initiation and cessation. Furthermore, the possibility to extrapolate the experience and use patterns from countries permitting the use of oral tobacco to other EU-countries where it is currently banned was assessed.
 
SCENIHR concluded that all STP contain nicotine, a potent addictive substance and carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines. STP were found to be carcinogenic to humans, with the pancreas and the oral cavity being the main target organs. All STP cause localised oral lesions and there is some evidence for an increased risk of fatal myocardial infarction among STP users. In addition, smokeless tobacco is addictive and withdrawal symptoms are similar to those seen in smokers. Due to insufficient evidence it is not possible to draw conclusions as to the relative effectiveness of smokeless tobacco as an aid to smoking cessation in comparison with established therapies. There is some evidence from the USA that smokeless tobacco use may lead to subsequent cigarette smoking, but this is not supported by data from Sweden. Social, cultural and product differences between North America and Europe as well as between European countries suggest caution in extrapolating findings across countries. Therefore, it is considered impossible to predict the trends in smoking prevalence and oral tobacco use across the EU if oral tobacco were made available in EU-countries where it is currently banned.
 
The preliminary report is published on the web and stakeholders are invited to comment through an online consultation aimed at gathering feedback on the scientific evidence and conclusions drawn by the SCENIHR.
 
For more information, and the online consultation, see:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/scenihr_cons_06_en.htm