Setting the facts straight about smokeless tobacco

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An editorial warning about the alleged dangers of smokeless tobacco — posted on a local South Dakota news website, — had ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross riled up this morning since it “contained more falsehoods and misleading statements in the fewest words that I’ve had the displeasure to read recently.”

The editorial castigates the tobacco industry, specifically R.J. Reynolds Inc., for its newly launched ad campaign for Camel Snus, which the author wrongly asserts is a smokeless brand of chewing tobacco. In fact, it isn’t — it’s a moist tobacco product in a tiny pouch that doesn’t involve either chewing or spitting.

And what’s wrong with the ad campaign anyway? asks Dr. Ross. “The difference between the Camel Snus ads and their predecessors is that they’re actually advising smokers to switch from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco, while other ads have simply stated, ‘If you can’t smoke inside, enjoy this product instead.’”

The editorial also states that smokeless tobacco use has increased nearly 7 percent annually, something ACSH has known and believes to be very good news in terms of public health.

The author then concludes: “Hopefully, more people will consider dropping the habit altogether, rather than simply switching to an equally risky form of tobacco.”

Though we’d agree with the first part of that statement — the best use of tobacco products is no use — the reality is that, among addicted smokers, smokeless tobacco products are associated with the lowest risk of adverse health effects. “How do we reduce the toll of tobacco related disease, which according to the World Health Organization, kills nearly six million people globally?” asks Dr. Ross. “One solution is to get smokers to switch to cleaner nicotine delivery systems, such as snus.”

And on that note, we’re happy to relay the news that Philip Morris International Inc. has purchased a patent for an aerosol nicotine-delivery system developed by Jed Rose, director of the Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

As one of the original researchers who helped develop commercial nicotine patches for use as smoking cessation treatments in the early 1980s, Dr. Rose explains why this new generation of smokeless tobacco products will only serve to benefit addicted smokers: “By avoiding the burning process altogether, finding a way of giving smokers nicotine to inhale but without those toxic substances...we can reduce the death and disease associated with smoking.”

ACSH friend David Sweanor, a Canadian law professor and tobacco expert, reiterates this important point: “We know that people smoke for the nicotine and die from the smoke” — which is why Dr. Ross says it is so important to develop and manufacture quality-controlled smokeless tobacco products to reduce the risk of smoking-related disease. As far as we’re concerned, can put that in their pipe and smoke it.