Monday, April 26, 2010

Smokeless Tobacco Dangers

The Partnership for a Tobacco-free Maine (PTM) is the Maine CDC’s tobacco prevention and control program. Its mission is to reduce death and disability from tobacco use among Maine citizens by creating an environment supportive of a tobacco-free life.

Snus is a new smokeless tobacco product that can be found nationwide and is becoming more prevalent. Consumption of smokeless products has risen over the past few years as cigarette consumption has decreased.

A recent segment on 60 Minutes about snus may not have presented enough information about the harmful effects of these products, such as:

· Tobacco is tobacco. ALL tobacco is harmful. Snus is not a safe alternative to smoking. National agencies such as CDC, NCI, and NIH all recommend that any form of tobacco be avoided and discontinued.

· Maine's strong tobacco laws have been proven to discourage youth smoking and support people seeking tobacco treatment, but these new products counter our efforts. Smokers wishing to quit should be encouraged to use approved methods such as counseling, NRT, and medications.

· These products appeal especially to young people and can be a gateway to addiction. These products can be used discretely and are advertised as a way to circumvent smoke-free laws. The piece also briefly discusses the new dissolvables and how they are attractive to youth.

· Using smokeless products can, in a dual user, increase the level of addiction to nicotine. These products allow the individual who may have otherwise quit smoking to perpetuate his or her addiction to nicotine by allowing use in areas where smoking is prohibited.

· Swedish snus and U.S. snus are not the same product. They are regulated and manufactured differently. Dr. Fagerstrom discusses the Swedish form. The Swedish version contains fewer toxins than the American counterpart. Long term research on the health effects of the U.S. snus does not exist.

· Placement of advertising for new products is an issue (most signs are on convenience store entry doors below the waist high handle to become familiar and seen by children). This is not addressed in the piece.

· These are cheap products – they cost about half the price of a pack of cigarettes. Taxes on non-cigarette products have not increased at the same rate as taxes on cigarettes. Increased prices discourage initiation among youth and young adults, prompt quit attempts, and reduce consumption among current users.

· The very fact that the tobacco industry is promoting these products as a harm reduction tool should be concerning to us. Harm reduction is neither an acceptable nor ethical public health practice.

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