Thursday, June 23, 2016

Smokeless Tobacco Helps U.S. Air Force Achieve Low Smoking Rate

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokeless tobacco is just as harmful as smoking…” 

This egregiously false claim appeared in a June 8 Air Force Times article by Phillip Swarts (here).

A mountain of scientific evidence amassed over two decades attests that smokeless tobacco use is at least 98% safer than smoking (here and here).  Further, while the CDC has been less than forthright in characterizing relative tobacco risks (here), the agency has never asserted that smokeless products are as dangerous as cigarettes.

I emailed Mr. Swarts, requesting a correction: “The CDC has never made such a claim in a public forum.  Please let me know if you have the CDC on record with such a claim.” 

The reporter’s response, void of fact checking, repeats a common misconception, to wit: “A quick Google search will turn up several such statements from the CDC, Mayo Clinic, American Cancer Society, and other health experts.” He is wrong, again.

Seven years ago, I wrote, “Our armed forces put their lives on the line every day; they use tobacco to help manage the resulting stress…It's time for DOD and other agencies to stop the misinformation campaign about tobacco. Show soldiers respect by giving them truthful information about smoking and smokeless tobacco use.” (here) 

Instead, military spokespeople continue to issue ill-informed and misleading pronouncements. Typical is Air Force Colonel John Oh’s 2015 remark (here): “If the Air Force was a state, we would have the second lowest smoking prevalence in the nation — that's the good news.  But we would also have the fourth highest smokeless tobacco use.”

Second lowest and fourth highest: Colonel Oh was complaining, but he should have been bragging.  His rankings are proof that, despite the government’s wrongheaded campaign against smokeless tobacco and the Air Force Times’ sloppy reporting, airmen and women are doing right by using far safer smoke-free products rather than smoking. 


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