here). The letter, authored by a former administrator of the Kentucky oral/dental health program, reflected the hostility towards tobacco harm reduction that is common among dental organizations (previously described here and here).
The Messenger-Inquirer published this response from me on December 19:
To the Editor,
Dr. Jim Cecil’s December 12 letter criticizing Switch and Quit Owensboro contained serious inaccuracies.
Dr. Cecil states that smokeless tobacco products “are known to cause” a number of diseases. In fact, research shows that the health risks from smokeless use are so minuscule that they are barely measurable, and they are a tiny fraction of the health risks associated with smoking. Dr. Cecil suggests that smokers only be told about “FDA-approved smoking cessation aids,” but those products succeed with only 7% of smokers. Smokeless tobacco works as a cigarette substitute because it satisfies nicotine cravings; it is also more affordable and more widely available than nicotine medicines.
Dr. Cecil incorrectly states that “there is no scientific evidence that smokeless tobacco can help a smoker quit!” Numerous scientific studies published in prestigious medical journals document that smokeless tobacco is an effective quit-smoking tool. These studies are summarized in two comprehensive reviews in Harm Reduction Journal (here and here).
Rather than being an industry ploy, as Dr. Cecil implies, Switch and Quit embodies a smoking cessation concept that has been endorsed by the esteemed British Royal College of Physicians (among others), which found “...that smokers smoke predominantly for nicotine, that nicotine itself is not especially hazardous, and that if nicotine could be provided in a form that is acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved.” (available here)
Dr. Cecil believes it is “unconscionable” and “unethical” to inform smokers about vastly safer smoke-free tobacco products. Consider this fact: If all American smokers instead used smokeless tobacco, over 430,000 lives would be saved each year. The Switch and Quit campaign is consistent with the highest medical and ethical standards.
Professor of Medicine
Endowed Chair, Tobacco Harm Reduction Research
University of Louisville