Today, the Illinois House Committee will hear comments regarding tobacco harm reduction. (See: The American Cancer Society lies and lies and lies and…, Illinois edition)
CASAA has submitted the written testimony below to the Committee.
Testimony in Support of Tobacco Harm Reduction
Illinois tobacco users deserve truthful and accurate information about the comparative risks of tobacco products, and smokers in particular are entitled to know that there are less harmful alternatives to smoking that do not require nicotine abstinence. Accordingly, on behalf of its Illinois members, The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) urges the House of Representatives' Consumer Protection Committee to recommend that the State of Illinois study tobacco harm reduction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. ln fact, the CDC estimates that 443,000 deaths in the United States each year are attributable t0 smoking, representing l out of 5 deaths in the United States. Smoking rates declined steadily from 1965 (42.4% of adults) to 2004 (20.9 % of adults), but over the last several years, smoking rates have remained basically stagnant. The CDC estimated a smoking rate of 18.9% in 2011, representing a decline of only 2 percentage points over the entire 7-year period from 2004 to 2011.
Most notably, this stagnant period represents a time during which the tobacco control and public health communities successfully lobbied for, among other things, higher cigarette taxes and increased smoke-free legislation. Yet despite this, the smoking rate has barely budged, and millions of Americans continue to smoke.
While nicotine is arguably what keeps many smokers smoking, it is not what causes the whole host of health problems associated with smoking. What is so dangerous about smoking is not the nicotine; rather, it is the process of inhaling smoke that causes so much harm. Despite this, public health care professionals and the tobacco control community insist that in order to quit smoking, one must ultimately give up nicotine, and they are resistant to the very common-sense observation that long-term smoking abstinence can be achieved without demanding nicotine abstinence.
Given 1) the significant risk of disease and death associated with smoking, (2 the dismal long-term success rate of 7% for FDA-approved smoking cessation products (or, perhaps more appropriately, a stunning failure rate of 93%), and (3 the stagnant smoking rates, it is clear that policy makers must consider alternatives in order to reduce smoking rates. CASAA respectfully submits that tobacco harm reduction is the most promising alternative.
Tobacco harm reduction describes actions taken to lower the risks associated with using tobacco or nicotine. While cigarettes and smoke-free tobacco products are both addictive (ie, creating daily dependence), the risks associated with cigarette smoking far, far exceed those associated with smoke-free products. In fact, on a continuum of tobacco mortality risk from l to 100, where nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) products such as the patch and gum are a l and cigarettes are a 100, smoke-free tobacco products fall below a 2.
The public health and tobacco communities claim that smoke-free tobacco- and nicotine-containing are not a "Safe" alternative to smoking, leaving the general public with the mistaken impression that these smoke-free products carry risks similar in magnitude to smoking. However, the truth is that the risk from using any of the smoke-free products available in the United States is estimated to be about l/100th of that from smoking. In real-world terms, this is quite literally the difference between life and death for someone who is unable or willing to quit smoking but who might, if given accurate information, consider switching to a low-risk, smoke-free product.
Tobacco harm reduction represents a practical approach to reducing smoking rates and the attendant smoking-related health problems. But, just as importantly, tobacco harm reduction is a compassionate strategy, offering smokers a low-risk, effective alternative to smoking rather than the “quit or die” approach that results in more than 443,000 deaths each year.
For the foregoing reasons, CASAA respectfuìly requests that this Committee recommend that the State of Illinois study tobacco harm reduction as common sense and effective tool to reduce the smoking rate.
Gregory Conley, Legíslative Dírector
The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association