Eroding the safer options

Ok, its pretty well accepted even by those who do not want to promote the option of smokers using smokeless tobacco that using smokeless tobacco is much safer than smoking. (They like to make the point of saying “less harmful” rather than safer to make sure to keep harm in the equation).

However a lot of energy is spent focussing on the residual potential for harm in using this product. And it seems to be quite popular with the media to republish these reports with ever increasingly inflamatory headlines.

Witness the new wave of media around the Stepanov study. (First wave, Second wave, and more).

This report has found higher levels of certain carcinogens than had previously been reported. There is no reason to debate the findings, and the recommendation that manufacturers attempt to reduce these levels is good however what remains unaffected is that these potentially carcinogenic products are still fractionally so when compared with smoking. In other words, whatever this report shows, and it says nothing about actual disease, switching from smoking is as good a move as it ever was. (Of course, many cannot see the difference and this report ends up with misleading headlines such as the Chewing Tobacco No Safer Than Smoking).

To belabor the point, they measured amounts of constituents that have been known to be carcinogenic at the cellular level. They did not prove that these substances had any substantial effect on human beings.

Its no different if we were bombarded every few weeks or so by studies about how under some circumstances seat belts increased the possibility of injury. These would be true studies yet not only would they not affect the fact that using seat belts are better than not using them and that these very reports would be used by some people to argue against the use of seat belts altogether.

One final observation: bad news is so much more of a draw than good. Any one of these bad reports about tobacco generates myriad appearances here and there but one about the benefits of switching is fortunate to get any press at all.

-PLB

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