“We need something that works better than what we have,” said Dr. Donald Miller, an oncologist and director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, which is co-sponsoring the campaign with the university. “This is as reasonable a scientific hypothesis as anybody has come up with and it needs to be tried.”
“Switch and quit” is the theme of an advertising campaign being promoted by a prominent cancer center in Kentucky, in which smokers are advised to lay off the cigarettes in favor of smokeless tobacco such as chew or snuff. “Supporters say smokers who switch are more likely to give up cigarettes than those who use other methods such as nicotine patches, and that smokeless tobacco carries less risk of disease than cigarettes do,” The Associated Press reports.
AP reports the program is partly funded with grants from the tobacco industry, though program director Brad Rodu, a University of Louisville professor of medicine, said the industry has “absolutely no influence whatsoever.” Smokeless tobacco has been linked to oral cancer.
The campaign is being pushed in Owensboro using print, radio, billboard and other advertising. Residents of Owensboro and the surrounding area reportedly consume about 3 million cigarettes a week. “That amounts to well over a pack for every man, woman and child in the community of about 115,000 people,” AP reports.
“The worst that you can say about smokeless tobacco is that it’s the lesser of two evils,” said Dr. Randall Thomas, an oncologist at the Owensboro Medical Health System. “I don’t think we have any problem in telling a person that drinks a six-pack a day that if they could cut it back to two beers a day or two drinks a day that their health risks are greatly reduced … Finding a way to let people have their nicotine that carries less risk, it’s the realistic solution.”
But there are opponents to the program, including Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who called it “a giant experiment with the people of Owensboro without rules or guidance designed to protect individuals from experimental medicine.” The theme of the program does seem to run counter to warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, whose websites say the use of all varieties of tobacco products “should be strongly discouraged” and that there is “no scientific evidence that using smokeless tobacco can help a person quit.”
Owensboro is an old tobacco town, and in the face of falling cigarette sales, tobacco companies are marketing more smokeless tobacco and other cigarette alternatives. (Read more)