Greater advertising of smokeless tobacco worth the investment

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While the amount of money that tobacco companies spent on advertising and promotional expenditures fell by 18 percent between 2006 and 2008, nationwide advertising of smokeless tobacco products actually increased by 55 percent during the same time period, according to a new Federal Trade Commission report. In fact, more smokeless tobacco ads may be encouraging smokers to switch from cigarettes to smoke-free alternatives. Unfortunately, however, due to a 2009 law giving the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco, companies are barred from truthfully informing smokers of the health benefits of getting off cigarettes by switching to smokeless products. While sales of chewing tobacco (dip and chaw) continue to decline, purchases of dry snuff and snus which have surpassed cigarette sales in Sweden are on the rise.

Though excited to learn that consumption of cigarettes declined by 8 percent from 2006 to 2008, ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan is still disappointed that manufacturers are prohibited from communicating to consumers the reduced adverse health effects associated with use of smokeless tobacco products. Only a sophisticated smoker meaning someone who is in touch with the news and well-read on the risk-benefit profile of smokeless tobacco will be encouraged to switch from cigarettes, since information about the benefits of harm reduction has largely been repressed.

While some ads explicitly advise smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco from cigarettes one for Camel snus comes to mind others simply tip-toe around the issue, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross, which gives anti-harm reduction groups ammunition to say these products encourage dual or bridge use, claiming that smokers will just use smokeless products to satisfy their nicotine cravings in areas where smoking is prohibited instead of actually trying to quit. He adds, The simple truth, however, is that for those smokers who are trying to quit and have been unsuccessful with current FDA-approved cessation methods as is the case in the large majority smokeless tobacco is an excellent alternative and has a great track record, especially in Sweden.