By CHIOMA OBINNA
Contrary to what experts described as brutal message of “Quit or die” for millions of smokers across the world, scientists have proved that substituting smokeless tobacco products can save smokers’ lives.
In a lecture delivered by a Professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville (UofL) School of Medicine and the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction at UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, Professor Brad Rodu during the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said smokers can greatly reduce their risk of disease and death by replacing smoking products with e-cigarettes or modern, spit-free smokeless tobacco.
According to Rodu who spoke at the session, “Harm Reduction: Policy Change to Reduce the Global Toll of Smoking-Related Disease,” the brutal message of Quit or die has helped contribute to 443,000 deaths per year, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rodu said: “The truth, however, is that total nicotine and tobacco abstinence is unattainable and unnecessary for many smokers.”
His presentation, entitled: “Transforming Tobacco Use: The Potential of Tobacco Harm Reduction” was based on his almost 20 years of research. He explained that e-cigarettes or modern, spit-free smokeless tobacco products provide a much safer alternative for those smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking because they continue to deliver nicotine without the harmful effect of smoking.
Rodu pointed out that “Nicotine is addictive, but it is not the cause of any smoking-related disease. Like caffeine, nicotine can be used safely by consumers” Rodu said.
The lecture published in ScienceDaily also noted that decades of epidemiologic research bear out Rodu’s findings. While no tobacco product is completely safe, smokeless products have been shown to be 98 percent safer than cigarettes.
In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Physicians reported in 2002 that smokeless tobacco is up to 1,000 times less hazardous than smoking, and in 2007, further urged world governments to seriously consider instituting tobacco harm reduction strategies as a means to save lives.
To see the proof of what tobacco harm reduction can do, look to Sweden, Rodu said. “Over the past 50 years, Swedish men have had Europe’s highest per capita consumption of smokeless tobacco as well as Europe’s lowest cigarette use. During the same time, they also have the lowest rate of lung cancer than men in any other European country.”
In the United States, steps have been made to document the value of tobacco harm reduction. In 2006, a National Cancer Institute-funded study estimated that if tobacco harm reduction was “responsibly communicated” to smokers, four million would switch to smokeless tobacco.