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Louisville professor: Smoke-free option is one Oklahoma should consider to reduce tobacco harm

BY BRAD RODU Published: September 30, 2012

The 8 million Americans, including 116,000 Oklahomans, who will die from smoking over the next two decades aren't children today; they are adults age 35 and older.

Prohibitionists extol the use of behavior therapy and expensive FDA-approved nicotine replacement products that, in reality, provide an insufficient dose of nicotine. Research documents that they fail 93 percent of the time.

Some complain that arguing for a switch from cigarettes to smoke-free tobacco is an industry ploy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tobacco harm reduction is backed by legions of peer-reviewed articles published in the world's leading scientific journals. It is endorsed by the British Royal College of Physicians, the American Association of Public Health Physicians and others. The Royal College concluded 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.”

Quit tobacco or die, the simplistic position of prohibitionists, contributes to the horrible death toll among longtime smokers. The Oklahoma Legislature deserves praise for its efforts to expose the truth about the life-saving potential of tobacco harm reduction through the substitution of smoke-free products.

Rodu is professor of medicine and an endowed chair in tobacco harm reduction research at the University of Louisville.