Swedish Match checking tobacco-free snus complaints

STOCKHOLM, May 6 (Reuters) - Tobacco products firm Swedish Match SWMA.ST said on Tuesday it was investigating whether its tobacco- and nicotine-free snus product could cause cavities after dentists contacted the firm.

Swedish Match’s biggest and most profitable product, snus, is a wet tobacco snuff that is placed under the upper lip. In 2006 the firm launched tobacco-free snus in Sweden, the world’s biggest snuff market per capita.

Freddi Lewin, health advisor at Swedish Match, said the company had been contacted by two dentists in the past month saying patients using the product had developed cavities, and also by consumers with similar concerns.

The firm said it was taking the information seriously and had initiated an analysis of the production and the ingredients of the product, Onico, which is based on corn fibre.

“We don’t know for sure this is due to Onico ... Even if the suspicion is there we really don’t know yet,” Lewin said.

“We are going through the entire production ... There are no indications at this point that this is a big problem. What we’re talking about is reports of cases, a few individuals.” The issue is whether the corn fibre transforms into sugar and causes cavities.

Swedish Match sells about 500,000 cans of Onico per month at about 18 crowns per can, versus about 15 million cans of regular snus monthly in Sweden, a company spokesman said.

A Swedish dental journal, Tandlakartidningen, said on Tuesday it had received reports from around the country of cavities in connection with the use of tobacco-free snus.

Regular snus comes loose or in pouches and is sold mainly in the United States and Scandinavia, but is banned in the rest of the European Union. The tobacco-free version is sold in pouches. (Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by David Holmes)