The Perils and Pluses of 'Smokeless Tobacco'

Saturday, June 3, 2006

I'm not sure which appalls me more: that The Post printed such a biased, blatantly untruthful article as "Blowing Smoke About Tobacco" [op-ed, May 30] or that an epidemiologist working for a school of health sciences wrote it.

The article claims that spit tobacco should be touted as a safe alternative to smoking, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 known carcinogens -- meaning things that cause cancer (and cancer is indeed deadly). Also, CDC research has proven that adolescents who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to become cigarette smokers, and cigarette smoking causes over 430,000 deaths each year in the United States. Aside from life-threatening cancers, spit tobacco also causes gingivitis, tooth loss and leukoplakia.

The facts are clear: Smokeless does not mean harmless.


Asheville, N.C.

The writer coordinates a tobacco-use prevention program for youth.


It is no surprise that quit-or-die anti-tobacco extremists are vilifying Philip Alcabes's excellent commentary on reduced-risk tobacco alternatives by miscasting tobacco harm-reduction as a children's issue. But they are wrong for two reasons.

First, in Sweden, highly prevalent smokeless tobacco use is a gateway to record low smoking rates. This is because smokeless tobacco is a satisfying substitute for cigarettes but is not associated with smoking initiation -- by children or adults. Second, and more importantly, the 8 million Americans who will die from a smoking-related illness in the next 20 years are not children. They are now adults who are at least 35 years old.

Preventing youth access to tobacco is vital, but not to be misused to condemn smoking parents and grandparents to premature death. Chances are that about 140,000 of The Post's readers smoke. They deserve access to accurate information about tobacco products.



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