Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SmokeFree Wisconsin Doesn't Believe in Reducing Harm for Smokers

In a May 6, 2010 blog post, SmokeFree Wisconsin applauded the new, larger warnings on smokeless tobacco products.

That would have been fine and dandy, if not for these comments by the author:
This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. This product can cause mouth cancer This product can cause gum disease and tooth loss....
The implication here is that you can dance the night away with Snus in your mouth and never have to go out for a cigarette and miss you favorite song.

I couldn't help but comment and surprisingly, my comment was accepted for once:
And WHY that is a bad thing? If they are using snus (which is scientifically shown to be up to 98% less dangerous than smoking tobacco) instead of smoking, wouldn't that be better for the smoker's health? Especially if they would already be smoking?

I understand you want everyone to avoid tobacco products completely, but that isn't going to happen. If offered the choice between deadly tobacco smoke and the far safer smokeless tobacco products, why lie to them and tell them smokeless products are just as bad? All you are doing is (encouraging) the use of a far deadlier product, because people will think they may as well keep smoking.

Granted, we don't want kids to start using tobacco products, but by misrepresenting the comparative safety of smokeless alternatives, you are exposing actual smokers to far greater risks.

The author's reply:
The studies of which you refer are in reference to Swedish Snus, a product which is entirely unlike American made Snus. Moreover public health has a duty and responsibility to "do no harm." The ethics which guide the profession do not promote "doing less harm."
Thanks for your comment.

And my comment back (we'll see if it gets posted):
No offense, Erich, but baloney.

If that were the case, public health wouldn't advise people to use low-fat and sugar-free foods - they'd be telling them not to eat it at all. People would be told not to drive at all, because seatbelts would only "do less harm" and aren't 100% safe.

Reduced harm/risk has been around for years in foods and other public health and safety, why not tobacco?

To tell people to just keep smoking, because smokeless tobacco isn't 100% safe make no sense. I know you want people to quit altogether, but that isn't what is happening with over 20% of the U.S. population who still smoke. By making smokers believe that smokeless alternatives are no safer than smoking, they will just keep smoking, while they could have been breaking their habit of smoking and reducing their health risks.

I'm not talking about encouraging non-smokers to use smokeless tobacco - that'd be irresponsible.

I'm talking about COMMITTED SMOKERS, who are already pumping 4,000 toxic chemicals and 60 carcinogens into their bodies and can't or won't quit. If they won't quit smoking, can you really argue that it isn't the duty of public health officials to alert them to the fact that smokeless products lack up to 98% of those chemicals and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke? (And we know it's the SMOKE, otherwise indoor bans would include smokeless tobacco. Or is this "TobaccoFree Wisconsin" now?)

How is that any different from telling someone to use low-fat products, which aren't as good as abstaining altogether, but at least LESS detrimental to their health?

Not informing smokers that many smokeless tobacco products are up to 98% safer than smoking is like telling a morbidly obese person that they may as well eat Ben and Jerry's, because low-fat yogurt still has "some fat."

I guess it's pretty much self-explanatory. These smokefree "public health" groups are no longer about real public health or even about the "smoke." They are about tobacco abstinence - PERIOD. And it doesn't matter who gets hurt in their rush to force that ideal. How many smokers will die because these groups refused to "do less harm?"

The argument against encouraging committed smokers to switch to reduced harm products, because they can't encourage "doing less harm," holds no water. Seatbelts, helmets, low-fat and reduced calorie foods - are all products meant to do "less harm" to or reduce harm for the user. Doctors regularly prescribe treatments that are risky or dangerous in the hope to save a patient's life. If it were not for the use of deadly chemicals, which make the patient extremely ill and could kill them, many cancer patients would not be survivors today.

So don't try to tell me that public health cannot reconcile itself with "doing less harm."

1 comment:

  1. He needs to realize, that by taking this stance, that all tobacco products must be treated the same, they ARE doing harm. That by suppressing the truth, they cause consumers to make uninformed decisions.

    Big Tobacco suppressed the truth...that their product caused cancer. Look where it got them. He's mirroring the same exact tactics used by his 'enemy.'