Should the government of Oklahoma help tobacco companies market their products? Most of us would think that's ridiculous, yet it's exactly what the tobacco companies and their allies are pressing the Legislature to do.
Unfortunately, this bad idea is being taken seriously enough that a legislative committee held a hearing recently on promoting smokeless tobacco as an alternative to cigarettes. In “Smoke-free option is one to consider” (Point of View, Sept. 30), Brad Rodu, a researcher funded by the tobacco industry, argued for a “harm reduction” strategy encouraging smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco to reduce their health risks.
There's little evidence that this tobacco industry scheme reduces smoking. In fact, there is considerable risk it would backfire and encourage more tobacco use, including among children. The result would be more tobacco-caused death and disease.
Rather than support a risky and unproven approach, the goal should be to implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use — higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free policies and effective programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
The same tobacco companies pushing “harm reduction” have done everything they can to defeat efforts to reduce tobacco use. Their goal isn't to reduce the harm caused by tobacco. It's to sell more tobacco products by preventing current customers from quitting and addicting new ones.
Oklahoma should act to protect kids and health, not tobacco industry profits. Smokeless tobacco harms health and is not a safe alternative. The National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service have concluded that smokeless tobacco products sold in the United States are addictive and cause serious disease, including cancer.