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Facing The Tobacco Industry – 2

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As mentioned in my previous comment, I recently gave a presentation at a tobacco industry conference on the future of tobacco harm reduction. My main message for the industry was that tinkering around with cigarettes will not make them meaningfully less harmful. Even if they manage to entirely eliminate a couple of the toxins in tobacco smoke, that still leaves thousands of others to do damage. So I see the attempt to produce and market a less harmful cigarette as being likely to mislead the public and do more harm than good. Our lungs simply are not built to absorb smoke and there’s no way round that fact. However, there are ways to make smokeless tobacco products that are much less (about 90%) less harmful than cigarettes, and there is evidence from Sweden and a few other countries that smokers can switch to these smokeless products. So my recommendation to the tobacco industry was to collectively withdraw from the manufacture and sale of smoked products (within 10 years) and to focus on making and selling low-toxin smokeless tobacco products that deliver nicotine. As you might imagine, not everyone in the audience was thrilled about being told that their industry has caused the premature death of over 13 million people in the US over the past 40 years, and that they should now withdraw their main money-making product.

Of course, many people on the public health side are not thrilled at the idea of more widespread smokeless tobacco use either (and I’m guessing that your immediate reaction to the idea is probably not warm and fuzzy). But I’d encourage you to really look into the evidence on this if you are interested (or even if you just think I’m crazy). You can see my slides and listen to audio recordings of 2 of my presentations at the UK Smoking Cessation Conference online at:

Foulds J. “Tobacco Harm Reduction.” Invited plenary presentation at the First UK National Conference on Smoking Cessation, London, UK. July 9& 10, 2005. The slides and full audio recording of this presentation are available online at:
http://www.uknscc.org/2005_UKNSCC/speakers/jonathan_foulds.html

Foulds J. “Smokeless tobacco: Problems and Opportunities” Invited plenary presentation at the second UK National Conference on Smoking Cessation, Gateshead, UK. June 26, 2006. Audio and slides available online at:
http://www.uknscc.org/2006_UKNSCC/speakers/jonathan_foulds.html

You can access my slides and presentation notes for the TMA meeting this month at..
http://www.tobaccoprogram.org/fouldstma.htm
(This is a large powerpoint file that may take a few minutes to download and is best viewed in “normal view” format to access the accompanying comments).

If you want to learn more about the form of smokeless tobacco called “Swedish snus” you can download pdfs of a couple of articles I’ve written on it from this website:
http://www.tobaccoprogram.org/staffarticles.htm(I’d recommend the ones by Foulds, Ramstrom etc in 2003, and Ramstrom & Foulds 2006).

Just to be absolutely clear, smokeless tobacco is very far from harmless. I would not recommend anyone to use it. If you are thinking of quitting smoking or quitting smokeless tobacco then that is absolutely the best thing you can do for your health. If you are looking for something to help you quit then one of the safe and effective FDA-approved smoking cessation medicines, plus some counseling from a trained professional is the way to go. But if the tobacco industry are to stay in business selling tobacco (and there's every reason to think that will continue, whether we like it or not), I'd rather it was by selling a product that can feed nicotine addiction without causing lung cancer or emphysema.
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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