Now for some more good news on the harm reduction front: While cigarette sales have fallen by 17 percent since 2005 due to robust health campaigns and steeper taxes, smokeless tobacco products sales have grown by an annual rate of approximately 7 percent, reports The Chicago Tribune. The increase in sales of smokeless tobacco products can be partially attributed to their invisibility. For addicted smokers stuck in a smoke-free office environment all day long, these products relieve them of their nicotine craving.
Economic factors have also been responsible for the rise in smokeless tobacco sales since a can of premium Swedish snus can run not much more than half the cost of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in places where state, county and city excise taxes are high.
Perhaps the most intriguing element to this story is that the use of smokeless tobacco products is increasing even though advertisers aren’t allowed to market them as a safer alternative to cigarettes. “I wonder how these people get the message,” ponders ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.
Even though medical experts agree that quitting tobacco altogether is the ideal scenario, scientists admit that smokeless tobacco products are much less harmful than cigarettes.
But the potential benefit of these products, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, is often overshadowed by anti-tobacco camps that focus on the possibility of increased risks of oral cancer from smokeless tobacco products. Dr. Ross notes that this risk “is essentially nil in the kinds of highly purified snus products found on the market today. These people must be confusing that with chewing tobacco used in years gone by.”
While others like Dr. Frank Leone, director of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center’s Comprehensive Smoking Treatment Program, argue that smoke-free cigarette alternatives will only prolong a smoker’s addiction to nicotine, Dr. Ross counters that “there is a far greater net beneficial effect seen from the people who use snus instead of cigarettes as a means of effectively quitting smoking.”