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Tobacco Harm Reduction: What you NEED to know

by Anne S. on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tobacco companies are at it again – recently, they have been working in states, including, Indiana, to implement Tobacco Harm Reduction strategies including promoting the use of smokeless tobacco products as a less harmful alternative to smoking.  Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support this. 

Snus, Strips, Sticks and Orbs are “other tobacco products” or “smokeless” tobacco products are being marketed by big tobacco as a “less risky” alternative to smoking and products that help to reduce tobacco’s harm.  With their many flavors and creative packaging these tobacco products look and smell just like candy, making them extremely attractive to a whole new generation – our youth!  These products also still contain tobacco which is harmful in any form.  These new products can lead to increased risks of developing oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancers as well as heart disease and stroke because the primary carcinogens are the same as in cigarettes, they are just ingested differently.

According to Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, tobacco companies spend $249.5 million annually marketing tobacco products in Indiana alone.  The tobacco industry has tripled smokeless tobacco advertising and promotion from 1996-2006.  Sadly, every year 9,700 Hoosiers suffer a tobacco-related death.  What’s even worse is that 29,500 Indiana kids will try their first cigarette each year and 6,300 additional kids will become regular daily smokers every year.  More than 18% of Indiana high school students are current smokes and more than 13% of high school males are current spit tobacco users – a smokeless product.  If these new smokeless tobacco products, that are flavored and meant to taste like candy are more accessible, image how many more kids could become addicted to tobacco.

The State of Indiana and its agencies should be in the position of deterring the use of ALL tobacco products and not be in the business of condoning any sort of tobacco use.  State and local governments can reduce tobacco use, save lives and save money by implementing effective, proven solutions to the problem. These include higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places, and well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

Today's tobacco industry is evolving for the 21st century, innovating products and finding new ways to hook nonsmokers while keeping existing customers addicted. The products may be changing but their goal remains the same -- to profit from a deadly addiction.

But we know that no matter how the tobacco industry spins it, tobacco use is bad for your health - causing heart disease, cancer, stroke, and many other chronic diseases.   Interested in helping us fight big tobacco during the 2014 legislative session? Let us know by contacting Connie Wells at connie.wells@heart.org.

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