Smoking Cessation Can Tobacco Be Part Of The Solution?
Turin, Italy (July 6, 2010) -- The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) today led a panel of the world s leading tobacco and nicotine experts on science and policy in the area of Tobacco Harm Reduction i.e. how smokeless tobacco products can be used as a small backfire to put out the larger, more deadly forest fire of cigarette smoking.
Reducing the deadly toll of cigarette smoking through Tobacco Harm Reduction was the subject of a session at the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF), currently underway in Turin.
The American Council on Science and Health believes that strong support of tobacco harm reduction is fully consistent with its mission to promote sound science in regulation and in public health policy, as part of our general mission to assist consumers, regulators and the media in distinguishing real health threats from spurious health claims, said Dr. Gilbert Ross, medical director of ACSH, who moderated the distinguished panel.
More than forty years after the launch of one of the most intensive public health campaigns in history, 107 million Europeans and another 45 million Americans continue to smoke not to mention hundreds of millions more across the developing world.
This hard core of addicted smokers is either unable or unwilling to achieve cessation through complete abstinence from tobacco and nicotine. Yet conventional smoking cessation policies demanding complete abstinence, or prohibition of all tobacco products, do not take this into account, presenting smokers instead with one of two unpalatable options: quit or die.
In Sweden, and increasingly in Norway, smokers who wish to quit have found another path to combat smoking they have turned to Swedish snus, a traditional smokeless tobacco instead. Subsequently, Swedish smoking rates have dropped dramatically, to 13% of the adult population, and tobacco-related diseases and death are among the lowest levels in Europe.
Tobacco Harm Reduction's benefit for individual health is now recognized by solid scientific evidence, but knowledge of this fact is still limited, even in various professional circles, said Dr. Lars RamstrÃ¶m of the Institute of Tobacco Studies in Sweden.
In neighboring Norway, this experience is starting to be replicated. Use of Swedish snus has risen rapidly over the past 20 years both as smoking initiation rates have dropped and as people switch from cigarette smoking to snus and other "clean" nicotine products. Norwegian Public health authorities are now beginning to consider the idea that tobacco harm reduction could have a role to play in bringing down smoking rates.
Professor Karl-Erik Lund of The Norwegian institute for alcohol and drug research, which advises the Norwegian Health Directorate, says: I am gratified to see my research, which supports the Swedish data, helping to influence the Norwegian public health authorities towards approved tobacco harm reduction as a cessation aid.
There do remain concerns among some members of the public health community. But these doubts, which tend to revolve around: the potential for smokeless tobacco to serve as a gateway to cigarette smoking, to serve as a bridge or "dual use" product rather than a cessation aid, or to cause various cancers - are not supported by clear scientific evidence, according to the Tobacco Harm Reduction panelists and others knowledgeable in the field.
The accumulating evidence from scientific research indicates that tobacco harm reduction has a real potential to yield public health benefits. Such benefits have long been demonstrated in Sweden, and have been recognized by an increasing number of authoritative bodies," said Dr. Karl-Olov Fagerstrom of Fagerstrom Consulting and the Smokers Information Center in Sweden. Dr. Fagerstrom is a founding member of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.
"There is practically no other program with the potential to save as many lives and to relieve as much preventable suffering as helping smokers to quit their deadly addiction through harm reduction utilizing smokeless tobacco," said Dr. Ross.
The American Council on Science and Health is a nonprofit consumer-education and advocacy organization based in New York, which is guided by a scientific advisory panel of almost 400 academic scientists and policy experts throughout North America. ACSH's mission is to discern and publicize the differences between real health risks and those which are negligible or hyped. Reducing the toll of cigarette-related disease has been amongst ACSH's core topics since it was founded in 1978 by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, who remains our President.