High school principal: “We clean snus and not chewing gum from the floors”

Principal Satu Harnesk has noticed an increase in snus use among students. But when she tries to talk about the health aspect, it is difficult to get through.

Photo: Martin Stenmark

Text by: Annika Lund, first published in Medical Science No 2 2024 / Spotlight on new nicotine products

Since autumn 2022, Satu Harnesk has been the principal of a secondary school. Before that, she was at a primary school.

One big difference is that at primary school she was able to introduce rules on tobacco and contact parents. At secondary school, where a large proportion of students are adults and of legal age, it is much more difficult.

‘We notice a sharp increase in snus use, especially among girls. Nowadays, we clean snus and not chewing gum from the floors,’ she says.

Satu Harnesk tries to talk to the pupils about the health aspects of snus in particular. She is usually told that white snus is ‘fresher’ than both cigarettes and brown snus.

Snus is normalised among the pupils

‘When I point out that all products contain the same poison, namely nicotine, it is difficult to get through. The counter argument I get is ‘how can something that everyone is doing be dangerous?’. Snus is normalised – we’re back in the 70s, where we were then with smoking,’ says Satu Harnesk.

The marketing of these products is very aggressive, says Ms Harnesk, who has listed herself on a few websites to see and hear for herself. One of the companies sounds like a make-up brand and sells glittery rhinestone-covered boxes to put the snuff in. They call themselves a “fashion-conscious” company and explicitly target women, she explains.

‘Obviously, very strong market forces want our young people to do this. It pisses me off, to be honest. The adult world has a responsibility to ensure the next generation has the best conditions and we don’t know how their bodies are affected by these products. Yet we allow these companies to get young girls to take up snus by offering glitter boxes and candy flavours,’ says Satu Harnesk.

‘We have banned alcohol advertising and the Marlboro Man seems very outdated. But isn’t this just as bad?’

Satu Harnesk

Age: 51 years.

Does: Is the principal of Klara Teoretiska Gymnasium in Sollentuna.

The magazine Medical Science

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The magazine Medical Science

The magazine Medical Science (Medicinsk Vetenskap) is published by Karolinska Institutet and targets the general public interested in medical science.

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