Clive Bates former head of ASH on snus, hat tip Chris Snowdon

I have shamelessly cut and pasted this from Chris Snowdon’s blog, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. Snus are tobacco and hence nicotine based pouch like a tiny tea bag which you rest between upper lip and gum.  The nicotine is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Illegal in the European Union except Sweden, which in my opinion sums up the ‘quit or die’ or ‘its not about health’ position of the anti smoking, now anti nicotine, mainly tax payer paid charlatans.

It is Clive Bates’ the former head of ASH ‘s comments that I find most interesting.  Here is the background.

Norway, a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and not subject too EU law currently also allows snus. The net effect is that, particularly amongst men Norway has some of the lowest lung cancer (LC) rates in the world.  For example the LC rates per 100,000 per year are for Belgium, Denmark and the UK are 69.9, 45.2 and 42.9. Norway and Sweden is 32.7 and 22.6.  Anti nicotine campaigners suggest that snus cause mouth, oral and esophageal (MOE) cancer, however as you can guess the facts do not match the spin.  MOE in Belgium, Denmark and the UK is 7.7 per 100,000, 7.0 and 5.0. Norway and Sweden 4.5 and 4.3.

Chris’ piece was about a discussion between Sir Richard Peto and Dr. B. MacGibbon, who have been Principal Medical Officer, Division of Toxicology, Environmental Pollution and Prevention, Department of Health and Social Security, London about Skoal Bandits a form of snus which set up a factory in Scotland in 1985.  Peto and MacGibbon were discussing the merits of snus.

Clive Bates was head of ASH from 1997 to 2003. I have checked the URLs and they are indeed his blog. It is a devastating critique of the anti nicotine groups,  it is strongly worded.

Anonymous Clive Bates said…
Dear Chris – I write as former director of ASH (the one based in London: I was director from 1997-2003. I am now no longer involved in public health and these are my personal views.The public health community does know about smokeless tobacco and harm reduction, or it should know as it is their responsibility to understand what they are doing. There is plenty of evidence and sources available to those prepared to approach the issue with an open mind. In fact a debate has raged on this subject for some time and continues to this day – with many protagonists on both sides. The denial of evidence, warped logic, weird ethics and rejection of common sense has been extraordinary to behold. My concern now is that the EU is considering a new tobacco directive to replace the one that bans oral tobacco in the EU outside Sweden. Despite the reality that illiberal, self-defeating measure is deeply harming to health and civil liberties, as far as I can see no-one is lifting a finger to do anything about it. There is now the opportunity of the new directive to replace the ban with a regulated market in reduced-risk smokeless tobacco.

Just so you can see that the public health community has never been united in its view on this, here are a few posts from me on smokeless tobacco and harm reduction:

Killing by the million: and that’s just the health campaigners “If there is a reason to be a Euro-sceptic, then this is one of the strongest – deliberate denial of access to products that are much lower risk to people that are addicted to nicotine.”

Saying stupid things with fake sophistication – a critique of ASH Scotland’s position statement on smokeless tobacco: “jaw-dropping in its idiocy”.

Mass killing machine making lots of money “One danger is that fussy, insular and instinctively authoritarian public health people will continue down the evidence-free path of blocking these developments and insist that for smokers it has to be ‘quit or die’. On the other hand, and more positively, tobacco companies may see smokeless products as a way of doing business with less death and disease and persuade regulators that they needs some regulatory tweaks to make it work – for example it is still impossible to tell smokers the truth about relative risks, and much public effort go in to obscuring it.”

Useless scientific advice from the EU including a submission to the committee evaluating smokeless tobacco, and a more complete critique of what they were doing and how they were going about their work.

The European Commission continues to rely on the work of this committee to justify its stance in favour of banning lower risk products, yet the terms of reference, the assessment and its interpretation were all thoroughly flawed and easily discredited.

21 April 2012 10:30

I can also recommend Chris’ follow up blog that there is pressure within the EU and Norway to restrict or ban snus. What a disgrace.



This entry was posted in ASH, Lung cancer, Smoking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Clive Bates former head of ASH on snus, hat tip Chris Snowdon

  1. Sorry Dave I just couldnt resist:

    NRT’s are a nicotine based pouch like a tiny tea bag which you stick to your skin. The nicotine is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Whether it is snus or NRT product both aid in smoking cessation. The diference one owns the government while the other does not and one has been determined to have a 98.4% failure rate!

    • Nice one Harley!! And actually, it would probably be workable to some degree in real life! Picture it: something like band-aids with a little moist snus packet that you’d put on your arm!

      Actually, while making a post over on LongRider’s board at:

      I ran across an NRT ad showing a quitting-smoker so distracted by wanting to smoke that he didn’t notice a shark biting his arm. He reaches into his pocket, pull out what looks like a little candy box of breath mints, pops a couple in his mouth, and VOILA: no more a happy smile and contentment (and a sudden noticing of the shark chomping on his arm!)

      – MJM

  2. Clive Bates says:

    Dear Dave

    Thank you for giving my views more prominence. I’m sure there is much we could disagree on, but I do think that wilfully limiting the nicotine market to only the most harmful products is something that should unite opposition from smokers, public health advocates, economists and champions of consumer rights and civil liberties.


    Clive Bates

    • Yep Clive the nazis no more want cigs outlawed than they want a bunch of quitters.All their revenue streams depend on tobacco taxes from smokers. In North Dakota a legislator had proffered up outlawing tobacco in that state altogether. Guess who came out totally against it,ACS,ALA,TOBACCO FREE KIDS etc……………Perhaps the big pharma groups always wanted their patches and gums to have that 98.4% failure rate.That way they have a steady stream of sales to single OTC sales and sales to whole states and counries. In America the average smoking ban law included an initial investment of some 300 million dollars for NRT products and even now tenncare in tennessee pays for these worthless NRT products even after I challenged the LT governor Ron Ramsey on it via telephone……..Somebody bought off the politicians.

      • Paul Austin says:

        Harleyrider, The TKF was was most likely busy setting up its western style Kempeitai against MLB chaw use around 2004. The real culprits were of course, ACS, ALA, but included the AHA, ND Medical assoc., ND Public Health Assoc., and ND nurses assoc. All stood to lose NRT product kickbacks, their cut of MSA/excise tax, and the loss of justification for their insipid programs existence by blaming their neutered bogeyman. Their excuse? “No scientific evidence that prohibition reduces tobacco use.” The whole sordid episode is documented on Stanleys UCSF hall of horrors archives here:;jsessionid=7B7E19A23E1C1BC564659FA3D540EAE6#page-77
        on pages 75-77.

    • Dear Clive,

      Thanks for taking the trouble to comment. I approach the issue from a personal responsibility point of view, in that if you know the risks you should be allowed to get on with your life without government interference, save advice. Man has been taking drugs for over 30,000 years (some cave art is thought drug induced) and you just can’t dis-invent nicotine, so hence the more choice the better. The Puritanism towards nicotine is quite obnoxious. In the face of relative safety a ban is a disgrace.

      One quick question, where do you stand on E-cigs, if I may ask?

      At least there is something we can agree on.



      • I’m in favour of e-cigarettes for the same reasons as I’m in favour of snus. Nicotine is a widely used drug and there is no reason to restrict its availability to only the most dangerous delivery systems. Plenty of reasons to allow smokers to adopt this alternative.

  3. Rose says:

    Now, Ramadoss wants ban on tobacco products
    2 October 2008

    “CHENNAI: Buoyed by the ban on smoking in public places that went into force across the country on Thursday, a jubilant Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said his next big wish is to see a bar on all tobacco products.”

    “He said 152 countries had signed a WHO-supported international agreement to ban the production of tobacco products in a phased manner.”

    Was Mr Ramadoss mistaken?

  4. Rose says:

    Perhaps while Clive Bates is visiting your blog I might ask a few questions.

    Letter to The Publican re. protecting employees from passive smoking
    7th June 1999

    Dear Editor

    Re: smoking in pubs

    It is true that the Health and Safety Executive is developing a new Approved Code of Practice to deal with passive smoking in the workplace (Pubs face new smoking bans, Code is a blow, 7th June 1999). All the ACOP will do is provide meaningful guidance on how the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) should be applied to tobacco smoke in the workplace. This law already exists and has no exemptions for the hospitality industry. The ACOP will clarify the law and help publicans comply with it.

    A new ACOP would not mean that all smoking must be banned in pubs. The heart of the law is that employers have an obligation to do what is reasonably practicableto reduce their employees’ exposure. That could include segregation,ventilation, banning smoking at the bar or other measures. It also means the ‘do nothing and ignore it’ approach is not an option. The best approach for any pub is to wholeheartedly embrace the Charter agreed by the Government and trade bodies such as ALMR and BII and to do what is reasonable and practical to protect their employees. That is good professional business, and it should not be a cause for alarm, despair or resistence.

    Yours sincerely,
    Clive Bates

    But in January of that year.


    “The strength of the Partnership Project lies in the fact that it has brought together three major pharmaceutical companies, Glaxo Wellcome, Novartis Consumer Health and Pharmacia & Upjohn, all manufacturers of treatment products for tobacco dependence, to support a common goal that will have a significant impact on public health.”

    “We have worked with GSK under the auspices of the WHO-Europe Partnership Project on tobacco dependence and at various one-off opportunities. ASH was instrumental in securing greater government commitment to smoking cessation products in the NHS National Plan and we have helped with PR for both Zyban and Niquitin CQ.”

    Clive Bates

    Click to access ASH_635.pdf

    Did you sincerely believe that “A new ACOP would not mean that all smoking must be banned in pubs” when you wrote that letter to the Publican, or just that it didn’t mean “that all smoking must be banned in pubs” right then?


    Anti-smoking drug given go-ahead

    Clive Bates, of Action for Smoking on Health, said: Clive Bates director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group Action on Smoking and Health said: “This should end any doubt or hesitation about prescribing these life-saving drugs that still persist in the NHS.”

    Meanwhile, a solicitors firm based in Cheshire said it had been approached by more than 40 people who allege they have suffered damage to their health caused by Zyban.

    Their injuries range in severity and include seizures, sleep disorder and asthma. It is also alleged Zyban has been responsible for the deaths of two people.

    David Harris, senior partner at Alexander Harris Solicitors, said investigations were continuing into the potential claims for damages.

    NRT brands include Nicorette, Niquitin CQ and Nicotinel.”

    Anti-smoking drug deaths triple
    Friday, 18 January, 2002,

    “Clive Bates, of Action on Smoking and Health, told BBC News Online said: “Most of these people would have died anyway.”

    March 2002

    WHO Europe evidence based recommendations on the treatment of tobacco dependence

    “This was a three year project, funded largely by three pharmaceutical companies that manufacture treatment products for tobacco dependence, but managed by WHO Europe and a steering group which included government representatives and many public sector organisations. The project focused on five areas: tracking smokers’ behaviour and intention to change; the regulation of tobacco products and tobacco dependence treatment products; smoke free places and workplace policies; the implementation of evidence based treatment; and communicating the health messages about stopping smoking.”

    “They were commissioned by the World Health Organization and have drawn on the experience of a number of European countries, including the four original target countries of the partnership project: France, Germany, Poland, and the UK.”

    Which you must surely have known about.

    “192 member states of the WHO took part in negotiations, producing a draft text, adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2003.

    28 countries, including the UK, signed the treaty in June 2003.”

    So why the apparently sudden interest in snus and smokeless tobacco in 2007, just as tobacco was starting it’s new career as a workhorse for mass producing pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines?
    Surely that would just keep tobacco in the food chain.

    How a tobacco farm in Kent could provide a life-saving drug for millions
    July 2006

    “The process is called pharming, and to many it is both the future of GM crops, and the future of the drugs industry.”

    “Pharma-Planta is an EU Sixth Framework Program integrated project whose aim is to develop an approved production pipeline for pharmaceutical proteins made in plants, and take a candidate product all the way through development culminating in a phase I human clinical trial.”

    Pharma-Planta Production of Clinical-grade API in Tobacco

    “A production process was developed and in 2008 our efforts of designing a scalable industrial process for the production of a recombinant full-size antibody in Nicotiana tabacum cv SR-1 culminated in 4 “Engineering batches”.

    “Tobacco is an ideal non-food crop for this research, thanks to the speed it grows and matures and our deep knowledge of its physiology and transformability, which has been the focus of scientific attention for more than 20 years.”

    • I stand by all of this. I was Director of ASH and we took the view then as now that smoking represents the single most serious public health problem and the biggest driver of health inequalities. Unlike the approach taken with drugs (criminalisation), we believe that a public health approach is justified – especially in the light of the addictiveness of smoking. Pharma approaches to help smokers over nicotine addiction are part of the response (if they work), but I’m as sceptical as anyone about the efficacy of pharma products. Smokeless tobacco is potentially more important given what we know from Sweden. I’ve no objection to ‘pharming’ and don’t remember voicing any.

  5. Greg Burrows says:

    This first letter is interesting on Roses post, from Clive Bates, as it shows that Ash were trying to scare the pub industry in 1999, into believing claims could be made against them as stated here “It also means the ‘do nothing and ignore it’ approach is not an option”. The Health and safety executive could find no evidence, hence the statement in article 9 from HSE in OC255/15 published in 2006 “The evidential link between individual circumstances of exposure to risk in exempted premises will be hard to establish. In essence, HSE cannot produce epidemiological evidence to link levels of exposure to SHS to the raised risk of contracting specific diseases and it is therefore difficult to prove health-related breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act”. So they brought the ban in under the Health act 2006 no scientific proof needed.
    In Normal circumstances, Lawyers would be rubbing their hands to sue these people who have cost publicans their livlihood and the thousands of employees who have lost their jobs, because of a tissue of lies.

    • Rose says:

      ASH scared the Publicans even more in 2004

      ASH and Thompsons’ Tell Employers:
      Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned Over Secondhand Smoke
      12 January 2004

      “The hospitality trade faces a rising threat of legal action from employees whose health is damaged by secondhand smoke, after a new tie-up between health campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the UK’s largest personal injury and trade union law firm Thompsons was announced today.

      ASH has sent a registered letter to all the UK’s leading hospitality trade employers , warning them that the ” date of guilty knowledge ” under the Health and Safety at Work Act is now past, and that employers should therefore know of the risks of exposing their staff to secondhand smoke.

      Employers who continue to permit smoking in the workplace are therefore likely to be held liable by the courts for any health damage caused.

      ASH and Thompsons intend to use the letters in any future court cases as evidence that employers have been fully informed of the issue.

      ASH and Thompsons are also planning further steps to encourage employees who believe their health has been harmed by smoking in the workplace to seek legal advice on making a claim for compensation. These will be announced shortly.”

      Smoking conference urges change

      “Trade publication the Publican is feeling decidedly bruised and sorry for itself as, a result of a smoking in the workplace conference organised by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

      The Publican claims that the conference, whose purpose was to discuss the impact of passive smoking on employees in pubs and bars, turned into “an assault on the hospitality industry”.

      “Licking its wounds the Publican reported that the conference only provided one slot for a trade speaker, Peter Linacre, Managing Director of Massive Pubs.

      “Nick Bish, head of the self-regulation pressure organisation Charter Group said: “The conference was preaching to the converted and was simply a lot of people agreeing with themselves.”

      However, in response President of the RCP Professor Carole Black said “Making these pubs and bars smoke-free not only protects vulnerable staff and the public, it will help more people stop smoking.” In addition, Dr. Richard Edwards of Manchester University criticised the existing measures in pubs as inadequate.

      The Publican editorial reflected the paper’s defensive tone, conceding that a mandatory smoking ban in pubs is moving closer. “The trade is being attacked left, right and centre by anti-smoking groups, medical experts and ordinary members of the public and the government is being put under enormous pressure to take drastic action”, it said.

      Defending its voluntary stance, the editorial issued a rallying cry to its members to stand together and not let others speak on its behalf.”

      ASH Political Bulletin 2004 Page7
      Letter to the Publican

      Peter Linacre

      “I attended and spoke yesterday (Monday 17th May 2004) at a conference held by The Royal College of Physicians entitled Environmental Tobacco Smoke and the Hospitality.”

      “We all need to be forwarned that the next growth area for the legal system will be prosecutions of publicans for not protecting staff from the dangers of ETS.Since April 27 cases have been taken on – this is the start of a tidal wave – in my view”

      Click to access ASH_405.pdf

  6. Rose says:

    Protecting workers in licensed premises from the effects of secondhand smoke – 2005

    “In a legal opinion obtained by ASH, J. Melville Williams QC suggests that not only has the date of guilty knowledge passed for employers, but also for the Health & Safety Executive and Commission. He further suggests that ETS should be formally recognized to be within the 1988 Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations, not least because of the 4000 carcinogens that it is believed to contain; this would oblige employers to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.”

    According to this, the opinion on the “date of guilty knowledge” was sought in 1998.

    But apparently under COSSH 1999 the burden of proof was on the landlord/employer to prove that secondhand smoke is not a hazardous substance.

    Challenging the Telegraphs reporting
    “On March 8th 1998 the Sunday Telegraph published a front-page headline report accusing the World Health Organization of suppressing a study that the newspaper claimed showed there was no link between passive smoking and lung cancer. The Sunday Telegraph headline was: “Passive smoking doesn’t cause cancer – official”.

    ASH immediately contacted the Sunday Telegraph requesting a withdrawal and correction. When it refused, ASH concluded there was no alternative but to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
    This page brings together the various pieces in the story (pdf files).”

    “Clive Bates was head of ASH from 1997 to 2003”

    • It’s not a secret – we were trying to get smoke-free public places almost from the dawn of time. Huge volumes of misinformation were produced on all aspects of smoking and passive smoking by the tobacco industry and its bought up and slavish hacks. No surprise surely…?

      • Rose says:

        Thank you very much for replying to my questions.

        You might possibly be interested in why I took up smoking in the first place.
        Being a gardener from an early age, I already knew that nicotine was not unique to tobacco and so smoking seemed to me to be a pointless practice.
        It was when I was told at secondary school that the manufacturers put road tar in cigarettes that I first became interested, I could see no advantage in them doing such a thing and wondered why any one would say it.
        That obvious lie bothered me for years, but having seen one poster dripping tar too many, I still waited until I was 18 to try a cigarette to find out why.

        No tobacco company could have done it.

        It wasn’t the tobacco companies either that defamed me and turned me into a recluse, but since the smoking ban has put a stop to any social life I once had, I have plenty of time for research.

  7. Pingback: Clive Bates, former Head of ASH writes on Big Pharma, snus and E-Cigs | Vapors Radio

  8. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you ought to publish
    more on this subject matter, it may not be a taboo matter
    but typically people don’t speak about such topics. To the next! Cheers!!

  9. Pingback: Why Snus Is Important - Page 2

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