The Battle over Chewing Tobacco

Re: Generally, public health officials do not embrace use of smokeless tobacco, including snus, as a way to shed cancer risks from smoking cigarettes. Best, Don Bauder-- That's very true Don--worse even, none of them do! That is the received wisdom that is so hard to dislodge, given the stated adherence to the decades-old "no safe tobacco" (true, but there is safer and much safer) adage. All the big public health non-profits and our own governmental authorities have a huge blind spot on this issue, well-earned by the 20th century tactics of the cigarette companies, with their fraudulent deceptive science-corrupting machinations. NOW it's the tobacco companies who--having seen the handwriting on the wall in the form of declining cigarette usage and sales concomitantly with rising smokeless sales--have taken up the promotion of less harmful alternatives. But the CDC FDA CTFK ACS etc etc refuse to get past the antipathy and look for creative paths to reduce the still-dreadful toll of cigarettes. Can anyone dispute the recent studies proving that the current cast of NRT patches etc do not add to cold-turkey quitting---yet continue to generate huge sales for pharma while "helping" maybe 5% quit? Can anyone dispute the Swedish experience showing massive declines in smoking commensurate with rising snus use? So sticking to the failed mantra, "no safe tobacco alternative" condemns those aforementioned millions to "quit or die." The academic literature (which I can send you) shows that modern smokeless products do NOT cause oral cancer or heart or lung disease, and of course there is zero second-hand smoke. I hate to be repetitious and a bit officious, but some independent research as opposed to ad hominems and "the official agencies do not endorse" patter would justify your credentials as a journalist and not a copy-and-paster. With all due respect--I did not mean to blame you for the millions who smoke, but neither are you blameless when you conflate "terbacky" and snus sachets, neither chawed nor spit--you know better. GR
— March 14, 2012 1:42 p.m.

The Battle over Chewing Tobacco

Thanks are owed to Mr. Bauder for allowing me to weigh in this fraught but crucially important subject. His piece is unfortunately, however, laden with misinformation whose consequences will be to increase the toll of "tobacco" (actually smoking)-related disease and death. It's unfortunate that he and the "experts" quoted are apparently devoted to the mantra of anti-tobacco zealots in the abstinence-only, "quit or die" camp, who are given free rein to conflate the issue of "chewing tobacco," "spit," and "dip" with tobacco harm reduction efforts. These have been focused on truthfully informing addicted ADULT SMOKERS about almost-harmless modern smokeless products such as snus, which is neither chewed nor spit, as it's not "terbacky." Snus is used as a replacement, a cessation aid, for deadly cigarettes. Referring to harm reduction advocates (including by insinuation me and my organization) as "backed by Big Tobacco" ignores ACSH's 33-year history of advocacy against smoking, and insults the large majority of harm reduction adherents campaigning to save smokers' lives, fighting an uphill battle against the forces of dogma and zealotry apparently so admired by the writer. Mr. Bauder and his quoted "experts" fail to acknowledge these simple yet tragic realities: Despite the dramatic decline in overall smoking rates, there remain 46 MILLION adult smokers in the U.S.A., among whom about 450,000 die as a result--not from "tobacco," but from SMOKING. Three-quarters say they want to quit, but only a tiny fraction succeed. Scholarly articles prove that modern smokeless products are 99% less harmful than cigarettes, they are effective at helping smokers quit cigarettes, and the experience in Sweden over the past 50 years confirms that. Respected health organizations, aside from my own, have endorsed this policy, including the Royal College of Physicians in the UK and the American Association of Public Health Physicians. The fact is: the currently approved cessation products made by Big Pharma do not work. When one of these experts says, "there's no safe way to use tobacco, stick to the approved products," they are saying, in effect, "keep on smoking." Mr. Bauder quoted me correctly and often, but his background comments about my personal history seem to be an attempt to convince the reader that my assertions are suspect. Fine--look them up in the peer-reviewed literature, but don't use baseball's chaw and Tony Gwynn's salivary cancer as touchstones to mislead addicted smokers about the potential benefits of harm reduction to try to save them from their deadly addiction using nearly-risk-free snus-type products. Gil Ross MD/ACSH
— March 14, 2012 11:56 a.m.

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