Monday, August 1, 2011

FTC reports indicate smokers finally getting the right message

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), a tobacco harm reduction advocacy group, said that two encouraging reports released Saturday by the FTC may indicate that U.S. tobacco users are getting the message that smokeless tobacco products are up to 99% safer than smoking. Just as encouraging, they said, it seems that the tobacco companies are recognizing this trend and shifting their advertising dollars from high-risk cigarettes to these low-risk smokeless alternatives.

According to the reports, smokeless tobacco consumption has increased 3.6% from 2006 to 2008 ( and smokeless tobacco advertising spending increased 55% during the same period. Additionally, nationwide cigarette advertising and promotional expenditures ( declined 20% from 2006 to 2008 and cigarette consumption declined by 8%.

CASAA is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that encourages smokers to find an acceptable, low-risk smokeless alternative. The group said research clearly shows that public health would improve significantly if committed tobacco users were encouraged by health professionals to at least switch from smoking to smokeless tobacco or nicotine products if they cannot or will not quit.
“For over a decade, smokers have been given the scientifically untrue message that smokeless products are just as dangerous as smoking, because tobacco manufacturers are prohibited by law to tell the whole truth,” said Elaine Keller, CASAA's vice president. “They are required to place warnings on their packaging that the products ‘are not a safe alternative to smoking.’ While this is technically true, most people would consider a less than 1% health risk as quite safe compared to the smoking risks.”

Because of the federal law, tobacco companies are forced to focus on promoting smokeless use when you cannot smoke, rather than informing smokers of the lower health risks. Keller said CASAA has no such restrictions and has been informing smokers since 2009 that the science and research actually supports modern smokeless products as nearly risk-free.

“Anti-tobacco public health groups are so keen to stop all tobacco use, regardless of the health risk variances, that they refuse to acknowledge tobacco harm reduction practices, for fear that smokers will switch to much safer smokeless products rather than quit altogether,” Keller stated.

While overall cigarette consumption was down in 2008, the number of U.S. smokers has stalled at nearly 21% of the population. It seems these smokers cannot or will not quit using tobacco or nicotine in some form. Additionally, smoking among youths is increasing in some areas. Keller said CASAA is concerned with those smokers who have no intention of quitting tobacco use, potential new smokers and smokers who have not heeded the public health group’s “quit or die” message.

“To expect inveterate smokers to suddenly quit after 30 years of smoking or to believe that youths will not continue to experiment with smoking and become addicted is simply dangerous wishful thinking,” she said. “And as long as these folks believe that smokeless products are no safer than smoking, they will just continue to smoke or choose to start smoking over less dangerous products. So, is that the message we really want to be sending?”

Keller said that the numbers in these reports are a good sign that the message may be getting out through the efforts of tobacco harm reduction advocates such as CASAA and the group hopes the trend continues, in spite of recent efforts by anti-tobacco groups to discredit tobacco harm reduction advocates.

“In this age of internet fact-finding, the truth will always come out. Smokers have heard the message from anti-tobacco groups that smoking is bad for them, yet they are still not quitting. Now they seem to be hearing our tobacco harm reduction message and making the switch. More smokers need to hear the truth that their only options are not quit or die.”

Media Contact:
Elaine Keller
182 St Francis st #300
Mobile AL, 36602


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