As media reports continue to promote misguided claims about the risk of smokeless tobacco products compared to cigarettes, it s clear that the word still isn t out that certain types of smokeless tobacco carry both a significantly lower risk than smoking and can help smokers quit. Case in point: A recent editorial in The Baltimore Sun argues there should be a tax on other forms of tobacco similar to the high tax that is currently placed on cigarettes. According to this editorial, other tobacco products, such as cigars and smokeless tobacco, are also harmful to human health, and thus should be heavily taxed in order to reduce their use.
While ACSH applauds recent declines in the rate of smoking in Maryland which the editorial cites as evidence of the effectiveness of a high tax on tobacco products ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross criticizes the authors failure to note the reduced risk of certain smokeless tobacco products. The editors advise the Maryland government to increase taxes on other tobacco products, including various smokeless tobacco products, urging equalization of the tax rate to those of cigarettes, he explains. What they don't understand is that the much lower risk of modern, snus-type smokeless products, along with their demonstrated ability to help smokers quit, warrants a reduction in the cost of those products by lowering, not raising, the tax. In fact, Dr. Ross points out, using snus (a form of smokeless tobacco contained in a teabag-like pouch) does not pose a risk of oral or esophageal cancer, contrary to the editorialist s blanket condemnation of all smokeless products.
Where the editorial argues that certain dissolvable smokeless tobacco products have a youthful appeal, Dr. Ross counters that these products are certainly not marketed to children. Even if these products are flavored, the taste of tobacco would render them unappealing to children, he points out. This is in contrast to the flavored FDA-approved nicotine lozenges, which actually have more nicotine than dissolvable tobacco products do. And most importantly, he observes, these arguments ignore the important potential of certain modern smokeless tobacco products, such as snus and dissolvables, to help smokers quit.