Wednesday, February 1, 2012

CDC Study: Americans Are Misinformed About Snus and Dissolvable Tobacco

Last week I made the case that the CDC was largely responsible for the information void related to smokeless tobacco use. (here). Staff from the CDC Office on Smoking and Health have published a report documenting that many adults in the U.S. are not even aware of snus and dissolvable tobacco, and they are mostly clueless about differential health risks of these products versus cigarettes.

Annette Regan was the first author of this study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (abstract here). She and her colleagues analyzed several thousand responses to the 2009 ConsumerStyles and HealthStyles Surveys conducted by Synovate Inc. The results are representative of the U.S. population.

Regan et al. wrote that “44% of [American adults] had heard of Camel or Marlboro snus…” but only “5.4% of adults reported trying snus and 1.8% used snus currently.” Only 10% of adults were aware of dissolvable tobacco, only 0.5% had tried it and a scant 0.3% currently used it.

Awareness and use of snus and dissolvables are modest, but the beliefs about risks were, well…unbelievable. Here is what respondents thought about the health risks of snus and dissolvables, compared with cigarettes:

What American Adults Think About the Health Risks of Snus and Dissolvable Tobacco
More harmful than cigarettes8%7%
Just as harmful50%39%
Less harmful5%4%

It is astounding that only tiny fractions of American adults (5% and 4%) are correctly informed that snus and dissolvables are less harmful than cigarettes. It is even more remarkable that Regan et al. did not even comment on this. Instead, they resorted to the same old mantra:

“All tobacco use is harmful; however, uptake of some of these products may pose unique health concerns. For example, snus and dissolvable tobacco products are marketed for use by cigarette smokers in places where smoking is not permitted. These discrete smokeless tobacco products can be used to deal with nicotine cravings while circumnavigating smokefree policies, and as a result deter smoking-cessation attempts. Because smoking cessation would result in substantial health benefıts, this behavior would be detrimental to health.” (references omitted)

Regan et al. don’t acknowledge that Americans are misinformed, and they perpetuate the misinformation by repeating that “all tobacco is harmful.” They opine that snus and dissolvables keep people smoking, but that is ridiculous. Their study shows that it is misinformation that keeps smokers from switching to lifesaving alternatives.

No comments: