Why Is Science Being Ignored?

Published February 26, 2008

The February issue of the British Medical Journal (http://heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=22811) confirms what research has shown for years: smokeless tobacco is less harmful than traditional smoking.

Unfortunately, the anti-smoking lobby has prevented the issue of “harm-reduction” from being discussed. Harm-reduction in this instance refers to a tobacco user still consuming tobacco products, but taking risk-reducing precautions. Another way to look at this issue is to compare smoking with mountain bikers: both activities have their own risks, but bikers who wear helmets and other protective equipment greatly reduce their risk of injury while still enjoying the activity.

Smokeless tobacco is much less harmful than traditional smoking–according to some studies, 98 percent safer. As the BMJ article notes, since smokeless tobacco is sucked and not inhaled, there is no risk of lung cancer.

Many smokers cannot quit “cold turkey,” nor do they find “nicotine replacement” products to be effective alternatives to smoking. These products lack the nicotine “hit” many tobacco users find satisfying. Many who try “cold turkey” or “nicotine replacement” simply give up and go back to smoking.

However, the nicotine level in smokeless tobacco is consistent (and, admittedly, strong), so its use satisfies the user’s craved “hit.” The cost of smokeless tobacco is similar to cigarettes–unlike “nicotine replacement” products, which are more expensive.

The 45 million Americans who use tobacco deserve life-saving information on tobacco harm-reduction. Why is smokeless tobacco consistently being ignored as an alternative?

For additional information on this topic, I invite you to read the following articles on smokeless tobacco and harm reduction.

Tobacco Harm Reduction Products Work, Studies Show
Dr. Sanjit Bagchi reports on the Swedish experience with snus in this article from the September 2007 issue of Health Care News.

Assessment of Swedish Snus for Tobacco Harm Reduction: An Epidemiological Modeling Study
Researchers at the National Health and Medical Research Council assess the potential health effects of snus in Australia.

Tobacco Harm Reduction: The Case For Smokeless Tobacco
Professor Brad Rodu of the University of Alabama weighs the risks of smoking and smokeless tobacco.

Let’s Have An Open and Objective Debate
A letter from U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) urging his colleagues to keep an open mind in the debate on smokeless tobacco.

For more information on tobacco harm reduction, visit Heartland’s Web site, where documents on this topic are grouped at http://heartland.org/IssueSuiteTopic.cfm?issId=4&istId=395. If you have any questions about this issue or the Heartland Web site, you may contact me, Heartland’s legislative specialist for insurance and finance at 312/377-4000 or at [email protected].

Nick Baker
Legislative Specialist, Budget, Tax, and Tobacco
The Heartland Institute