"Harm reduction" is the act of making a risky behavior safer. There are risks we take every day - including driving. In fact, getting in a car is one of the riskiest activities we do. According to the National Safety Council, there are about 10 million car accidents a year - from parking lot bumps to multi-car pileups. More than 2 million people are injured in accidents every year. Yet only about 3 in every 1,000 (about 30,000) of those accidents results in a fatality. That is because of harm reduction policies. Seat belts, air bags, headlights, speed limits and traffic signs all reduce the high risks of driving and save lives.
Smoking is another risky behavior that can benefit from harm reduction policies. In spite of decades of warnings, 45 million people in the U.S. still take the risk. Many are dependent upon nicotine, tobacco or the habit of smoking and just as there are tools to reduce the risks of driving, there are tools to reduce the risks of smoking. Because the greatest health risks from tobacco use are linked to inhaling smoke, it seems obvious that removing the exposure to smoke would significantly reduce the health risks for smokers. Options include modern, low-risk, smoke-free tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and even pharmaceutical nicotine products.
CASAA encourages smokers who are unable to quit to try these alternatives and find one or more that are acceptable and effective replacements for their cigarettes. Unfortunately, some public health organizations and government agencies continue to treat reduced harm products as if they have the same high risks as smoking. Many are even lobbying to have those low-risk alternatives banned from sale, which would leave only the most deadly product (cigarettes) and ineffective gums and lozenges on the market for those who still use tobacco. The idea seems to be that somehow this will encourage smokers to quit. This is akin to banning all of the safety features in cars in the hope that people will quit driving recklessly!
Please support tobacco harm reduction policies! Share this blog post on social media, blogs and online communities or download our public service announcements from casaa.org to post on your own site. Help us get the message out!