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Tobacco Harm Reduction

In 2015, an estimated 15-percent (36.5 million) of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. After vigorous “public health” efforts including taxes, education, and outright bans on smoking, the percentage of Americans who smoke has fallen significantly over the past four decades. In recent years, however, the number of Americans quitting cigarettes has begun to level off.

Nicotine replacement therapy, quitting cold turkey, and other methods work for some smokers, they don’t work for most. Current smokers should be educated about ways they can reduce the harm by shifting to less-hazardous products that provide similar enjoyment. Switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco products or electronic cigarettes dramatically reduces the health risk.

For many years, Swedes have used a kind of “spitless tobacco” called “snus.” At least partly because of the widespread use of snus, Swedish men have the lowest rate of cigarette smoking and lung cancer in Europe.

In an interview with Huffington Post, Dr. Brad Rodu and Dr. Joel Nitzkin explain:

 “Decades of scientific studies document that smokeless tobacco use is vastly safer than smoking with respect to cancer, heart attacks and strokes and many other diseasesThere is no confusion about smokeless tobacco among tobacco research and policy experts.  In 2002 a report by the British Royal College of Physicians, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical societies, stated “As a way of using nicotine, the consumption of non-combustible [smokeless] tobacco is on the order of 10-1,000 times less hazardous than smoking, depending on the product.”  The Royal College issued another report in 2007 concluding “…that smokers smoke predominantly for nicotine, that nicotine itself is not especially hazardous, and that if nicotine could be provided in a form that is acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved.  In 2008 the American Association of Public Health Physicians became the first medical organization in the U.S. to formally adopt a policy of “…encouraging and enabling smokers to reduce their risk of tobacco-related illness and death by switching to less hazardous smokeless tobacco products.”

Over the past several years, several millions cigarette smokers worldwide have quit smoking or dramatically reduced their cigarette consumption thanks to the use of smoke-free, tobacco-free, and sometimes even nicotine-free electronic cigarettes.  In April 2014, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a report summarizing a survey of more than 19,000 past and present users of electronic cigarettes – the largest survey of its kind to date. The survey found electronic cigarettes helped 81% of the survey respondents quit smoking. Among those who had not quit entirely, one-third were non-daily smokers, and the rest had decreased consumption from 20 cigarettes to 4 per day.

Unfortunately, some public health organizations and lobbying groups have made a business out of opposing smoking.