Thursday, June 20, 2013

Alternative Tobacco Products Aid in Smoking Cessation

In May Dr. Lucy Popova and Dr. Pamela Ling coauthored “Alternative Tobacco Product Use and Smoking Cessation: A National Study.”  It appeared in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health (abstract here).

The authors are members of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, which is a staunch opponent of tobacco harm reduction.  So it is unsurprising that their conclusions about safer smoke-free products were almost entirely negative:

“Alternative tobacco products are attractive to smokers who want to quit smoking, but these data did not indicate that alternative tobacco products promote cessation.  Unsubstantiated overt and implied claims that alternative tobacco products aid smoking cessation should be prohibited.”

But these data DID indicate that alternative products promote cessation. 

The authors used a Knowledge Network survey in 2011 of 1,836 current or former smokers who quit less than two years before.  The survey asked participants about use of chewing tobacco, moist snuff, snus, dissolvable tobacco and e-cigarettes. 

Drs. Popova and Ling provide the percentages of the 1,527 smokers who had been successful and unsuccessful in quitting and who had used these products, but they either didn’t see or completely ignored these important results:

Successful Quitting Among Knowledge Network Survey Participants, 2011
ProductEver Users (n)Percentage Successful Quitters
Chewing tobacco22132
Moist snuff23229
Dissolvable tobacco4420
All participants1,52728

Over 300 survey participants had used e-cigarettes, and over 200 had used snus, moist snuff or chewing tobacco.  Importantly, a significant percentage of ever users of all smoke-free products were successful quitters. 

Popova and Ling close with this: “Explicit or implied claims that alternative tobacco products are smoking cessation aids should be prohibited in the absence of a body of scientific evidence showing such an effect.”

It is ironic that their paper adds to the body of scientific evidence that smoke-free products are smoking cessation aids.

Note: Thanks to Dr. Joel Nitzkin for noticing this discrepancy.

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