Can Tobacco be Relatively Safe?

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This month the FDA is looking at a case, which would allow a tobacco company to do something it’s never done before—claim that one of its tobacco products is less harmful than cigarettes. Snus is a product which comes out of the company Swedish Match in Stockholm. The product is a tobacco pouch which is placed under the upper-lip, sort of like chewing tobacco except it doesn't require you to spit.

For now the warning label on cans of snus sold in the United States reads “this product can cause mouth cancer” and warns that it “is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.”

Representatives of the Swedish company want to change their advertising so it's more truthful. They say snus is at least 90% safer than cigarettes and should be advertised as such.

Rob Stein, correspondent and senior editor on NPR's Science Desk discusses the upcoming hearing, its implications and helps answer the question: Should warning labels on tobacco products take into account varying degrees of harm?