Cancer institute studies smokeless tobacco

This is good news (link) but kind of ridiculous at the same time.

The National Cancer Institute is sponsoring a series of studies because:

The institute said that the studies are necessary because “previous tobacco-use reduction efforts pursued by the public-health community were disadvantaged by incomplete knowledge and methods for evaluating the health impact of modified tobacco products.”

Among the goals are: determining the health risk of smokeless tobacco products; whether the products serve as a gateway for nontobacco users, particularly teenagers and young adults, into smoking; and whether they can be accurately marketed as a reduced-risk alternative to cigarettes.

This gives the false impression that there is a gap in the available knowledge when the gap exists in the scholarship of the tobacco-control oriented public health community. There is no dearth of research adequately covering the above questions but because it does not happen to be local research (or their own research) it somehow ceases to be visible. Saying that that research might not apply because it happens to be Swedish or British is like saying just because aspirin works for American headaches better do some Swedish research before you think it might ever apply to Swedish headaches.

One can see the focus already in that the same institute is studying whether smokeless tobacco is a reasonable alternative to smoking while also sponsoring a study into better strategies for people to quit or cut down on smokeless tobacco use.

One of the researchers, Wolfson, said:

“One of the reasons we think this study is so important is that many new smokeless-tobacco products are being marketed as a substitute for smoking. We don’t know whether people toggle back and forth between different products.”

Again, this sounds like it matters but when you are talking about harm reduction this is like suggesting that if people only use seat belts some of the time then let’s get rid of them. What matters is that people use them at all as a substitute. Even if they do not switch over entirely or even successfully, while they are using smokeless tobacco they have avoided the high risk that comes with smoking, and even that temporary avoidance just might make the critical difference.

If these groups have to go through these machinations to finally come to (and probably claim for themselves) the idea that tobacco harm reduction is possible and practical, then so be it. Meanwhile as the evidence sits there ignored, and these time wasting explorations within their politically correct context are pursued, smokers are dying.

-PLB

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