Citing the 29 July report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on cigarette versus smokeless tobacco advertising and marketing spends, the anti-tobacco extremist group, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, launched their tired volley of skewed propaganda.
Taking a break from his usual duties of self-promotion and raising donations, CTFK President Matthew Myers' statement reiterated once again that the tobacco companies were targeting "the children". The FTC report on tobacco advertising never mentions the words "children" or "child" once. Why should it? This FTC report has absolutely nothing to do with illegal use of tobacco products by minors. Neither does the Camel SNUS campaign encouraging (adult) smokers to consider switching to snus.
And now for some snus and tobacco advertising truth
Bill Godshall, Executive Director of Smokefree Pennsylvania and long-time anti-cigarette activist says it very succinctly. "Since cigarettes are 100 times deadlier than smokeless tobacco products, advertisements urging smokers to switch to smokefree alternatives benefit public health," In regards to the FTC report, Godshall added, "So the increase in smokeless tobacco promotional expenditures [higlighted in the FTC report] is not bad news as some anti-tobacco extremists will claim.."
Working from the exact same FTC Report cited above, the American Council of Science and Health (ACSH) also came to a completely different conclusion than Myers and CTFK. Quoting from the ACSH statement Greater advertising of smokeless tobacco worth the investment:
Though excited to learn that consumption of cigarettes declined by 8 percent from 2006 to 2008, ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan is still disappointed that manufacturers are prohibited from communicating to consumers the reduced adverse health effects associated with use of smokeless tobacco products. “Only a sophisticated smoker — meaning someone who is in touch with the news and well-read on the risk-benefit profile of smokeless tobacco — will be encouraged to switch from cigarettes, since information about the benefits of harm reduction has largely been repressed.”
While some ads explicitly advise smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco from cigarettes — one for Camel snus comes to mind — others simply “tip-toe around the issue,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross, “which gives anti-harm reduction groups ammunition to say these products encourage dual or ‘bridge’ use, claiming that smokers will just use smokeless products to satisfy their nicotine cravings in areas where smoking is prohibited instead of actually trying to quit.” He adds, “The simple truth, however, is that for those smokers who are trying to quit and have been unsuccessful with current FDA-approved cessation methods — as is the case in the large majority — smokeless tobacco is an excellent alternative and has a great track record, especially in Sweden.”
Everything Dr. Whelan and Dr. Ross say is true but the take-away for the purposes of this article is the frustrating lack of courage shown by the global snus and smokeless tobacco industry in advancing the cause of saving nicotine addicts from death by cigarette.
Let's say it again because it is true: pasteurized smokeless tobacco products like American-style snus and especially Swedish snus have a fraction of the health risks inherent in cigarettes. Despite the 8% two year drop in cigarette consumption Dr. Whelan cites, there are still roughly 45 million cigarette smokers in the United States (of legal age).
In the EU, the numbers are even worse. There are estimated to be 100 million EU cigarette smokers today.
Dr. Whelan is absolutely correct: too few cigarette smokers have the information they deserve concerning the reduced harm option smokeless tobacco offers them. Meanwhile; Big Pharmaceutical runs amok pushing anti-smoking pills which cause depression and suicide; nicotine patches and gum which have clinical failure rates in excess of 80% as long-term smoking cessation aids....all of which are FDA Approved.
Ideologues, Big Money, and Big Government; both American and EU, are responsible for the laws and regulations which leave us in this 'up is down; black is white' alternate health reality.
For their efforts, I commend Reynolds American. Reynolds has lawyers just like all the other tobacco manufacturers. Unlike the others, Reynolds has the courage to push the envelope without letting their attorneys take over their marketing departments.
Before you write this off as blind idealism, of course Reynolds expects to make a lot of money with this strategy in the long term. In the end, for all sides of this debate, it's all about money....a huge amount of money.
Snus and smokeless tobacco manufacturers just happen to have the moral, realistic, and scientific high ground this time. It is possible to make a huge profit and help society at the same time. It is admirable to offer the nicotine dependent a cigarette alternative which, in the case of modern Swedish snus, has 40 years of documentation, statistics, and the living laboratory of Scandinavia to prove their snus is about as dangerous as a cup of french roast coffee.
If you insist on applying blame, there are many targets; the largest of which was the 20th century cigarette industry itself. They are far from the only ones culpable however. Otherwise, like DDT, asbestos, and Agent Orange, cigarettes would be a very distant memory today.
It was known since the late 1940's that cigarettes were a major cause of cancer. It took until the US Surgeon General report in 1964 for the US Government to officially acknowledge this. The moral and responsible course of action would to have immediately banned cigarettes, period. This didn't happen....instead politicians protected their reelection chances while extorting hundreds of billions of dollars from the tobacco companies and billions more from tobacco consumers through Federal, State and local tobacco taxes.
As for anti-all-tobacco extremist groups, they are like all ideologies: check logic, truth, common sense, personal freedom, and fairness at the door. Think Prohibitionists in the 1920's or Al Queda type groups today. They can't be reasoned with because they are not listening.
Lawyers? They make money regardless of who wins. Maybe they shouldn't be the ones controlling this issue anymore.
It's time to stop playing the blame game. Global health care and insurance costs are out of control and getting exponentially worse each year. It is in the best interest of society to minimize and eliminate cigarette smoking as a part of that equation.
While nicotine by itself may not be any more harmful than caffeine, nicotine is as highly addictive as narcotics like heroin. Expecting 145 million EU and US cigarette smokers to "just quit" is unrealistic. Offering pills, patches, and other smoking cessation aids which have virtually no long term effectiveness as cigarette substitutes is just cruel. Punitively taxing cigarettes under the guise of forcing smokers to quit is disingenuous and only expands the black market for cigarettes while enriching organized crime organizations.
As for "the children", it is illegal for them to be using tobacco products of any kind and has been for decades. No one is trying to market any tobacco products including smokeless tobacco to children except maybe organized crime. Focus people: this is all about existing legal adult cigarette smokers.
It's time to stop demonizing legal smokers and offer them real healthier alternatives to cigarettes.
Good for Reynolds and Camel SNUS for taking up this fight. I wish the rest of the reduced harm tobacco products manufacturers would join them for all our sakes.
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org