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Efficacy of smokeless tobacco for smoking cessation: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Objective Smoking remains prevalent in many countries despite rigorous tobacco control strategies. The use of Swedish snus, a type of low-nitrosamine smokeless tobacco, has been promoted as a tobacco harm reduction strategy.

Data sources and study selection Three databases were searched for studies that assessed the effectiveness of snus in promoting smoking abstinence. A total of 28 studies were reviewed (5 randomised controlled trials (RCTs), 7 longitudinal and 16 cross-sectional studies).

Data extraction Separate meta-analyses were conducted by study type, pooling effect estimates where outcome measures and design were sufficiently comparable. Study details and quality assessment (Risk of Bias 2 for RCTs, Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for observational studies) are provided for each study.

Data synthesis While the meta-analysis of RCTs did not show a significant association between snus use and smoking cessation (risk ratio (RR)=1.33, 95% CI 0.71 to 2.47 and RR=0.62, 95% CI 0.27 to 1.41), the results of the meta-analysis of longitudinal cohort studies (RR=1.38, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.82, p=0.022) and cross-sectional studies (OR=1.87, 95% CI 1.29 to 2.72, p=0.001) indicated that use of snus was associated with an increased likelihood of quitting or having quit smoking. There was significant heterogeneity in the cross-sectional studies, and leave-one-out analysis indicated that the longitudinal cohort results were driven by one study. Most studies examined were subject to an elevated risk of bias.

Conclusion There is weak evidence for the use of snus for smoking cessation. Better RCTs and longitudinal studies are needed; meanwhile, existing cessation aids may be better placed than snus to promote abstinence.

  • cessation
  • non-cigarette tobacco products
  • harm reduction

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