Home / FAQs

FAQs

Harm Reduction

What is Tobacco Harm Reduction?

It is a public health strategy to lower the health risks associated with using nicotine, as an example of the concept of harm reduction, a strategy for dealing with the abuse of other drugs. Smoking tobacco is widely acknowledged as a leading cause of illness and death. However, nicotine itself is not very harmful, as inferred from the long history …

Read More »

How can a smoker reduce his or her risk?

Quit smoking or smoke less. Smokers can quit nicotine entirely, that is, quit smoking and not use any other type of nicotine. They can also get nicotine from a much less harmful source. Neither one will immediately eliminate all of the health risks caused by their previous smoking, but both come very close. Quitting entirely is probably the slightly healthier option for …

Read More »

What are highly-reduced-risk nicotine products?

Smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes or pharmaceutical nicotine products. The most popular highly-reduced-risk nicotine product is smokeless tobacco (ST), specifically modern Western moist snuff (the Swedish word for which is snus) and chewing tobacco. A newer and rapidly growing alternative product is the electronic cigarette. Another product category is pharmaceutical nicotine (such as nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, and inhalers). Someone who uses any of these products rather …

Read More »

Isn’t harm reduction a controversial idea?

Yes. But it shouldn’t be. Most all of public health, and a large part of medical care, is devoted to harm reduction. The term “harm reduction” is most often used in controversial contexts, like encouraging condom use and other safe sex practices, or providing heroin users with clean needles or methadone. Calling it “harm reduction” reminds us that though people …

Read More »

Can’t I be 100% safe?

No. If you find yourself dealing with someone who seems to be insisting that comparative risk does not matter – that “a lot better” is not good enough and therefore not worth pursuing – think about the following. Eating more fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of stomach and colon cancers and is beneficial in many other ways. Yet this …

Read More »

Can tobacco harm reduction really work?

Yes. Over the last few decades, men in Sweden have smoked less and used more “snus” (the Swedish word for moist snuff) instead. This was not caused by any public health campaign or government meddling. It was a normal social process of people changing their tastes. But the result was a huge public health triumph. Swedish men have a very …

Read More »

Isn’t nicotine very bad for you?

The effects of nicotine itself are similar to that of another popular drug, caffeine. See our (nicotine reading list.)There is no evidence that nicotine causes any substantial risk for cancer, and the research shows that the risk for cardiovascular disease is minimal. The confusion about nicotine comes from anti-smoking activists talking about nicotine and smoking as if they were the …

Read More »

Electronic Cigarettes

What are electronic cigarettes?

Some electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) look like regular cigarettes or cigars; others look like boxes or tubes and do not resemble regular cigarettes at all. E-cigarettes are battery powered and work by vaporizing a solution of propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, flavoring and water. (The solution is often referred to as “e-liquid” and usually includes nicotine, but that is optional.)  The …

Read More »

Are they as safe as using smokeless tobacco?

Maybe. We cannot be as certain of their safety range as we are with smokeless tobacco (ST) simply because they are so new. With smokeless tobacco, we have evidence from decades and decades of use by many different populations. Evidence that comes only from examining substance effects on cells in laboratories, measuring constituents in blood or urine, or its effects …

Read More »

Are they really safer than regular cigarettes?

Yes. Though we are uncertain as to how safe they are, we are fairly sure that they are safer than smoking cigarettes. Part of our certainty derives from knowing how harmful regular smoking is. Almost anything is certain to be safer. Almost anything else that is not acutely toxic (and we know that e-cigs are not) will be safer. Even …

Read More »

Smokeless Tobacco

What is smokeless tobacco?

As the name implies, smokeless tobacco products are not intended to be burned. They are made from the processed tobacco leaf and designed to be placed in the mouth. Worldwide, smokeless tobacco comes in many forms. Two of the most popular forms of smokeless tobacco in the western world are the highly processed and pasteurized products of Nordic countries (especially …

Read More »

How is smokeless tobacco used?

For most people, loose leaf chewing tobacco in foil pouches conjures up images of bulging cheeks and spitting tobacco juice. But American, moist snuff (also called dip) and Swedish snus are also popular. They are used by placing a portion (pinch) or a small pouch between the gum and lip until it loses its flavor or the effects of nicotine …

Read More »

Why do people use smokeless tobacco?

There are several reasons people prefer smokeless tobacco over other forms of tobacco like cigarettes and cigars.  First, they enjoy the taste. Visit any website that sells a variety of snus (there are hundreds of different kinds), and it is not uncommon to see snus flavor descriptors that sound like wine descriptors (e.g., hints of cedar and eucalyptus).  Second, using …

Read More »

Isn’t nicotine bad for your health?

Generally speaking, no. Nicotine is one of the most investigated drugs in history. We know a great deal about what this drug is, how the human body processes it, and why it exerts the many psychological and physiological effects that it does. Classified as a mild stimulant, nicotine increases alertness, aids in concentration, elevates mood, and in some circumstances can …

Read More »

How can all these people who say smokeless tobacco is so risky be so wrong?

The answer to this question is so complex it’s beyond the scope of this FAQ. However, a brief summary can be offered by understanding the history and prejudices of those who make anti-smokeless-tobacco health claims. For hundreds of years there have always been people in power who were personally or morally opposed to tobacco use, even before the true health …

Read More »

If using smokeless tobacco carries risks, why recommend it at all?

Just to be clear, we do not recommend people use smokeless tobacco in general. We recommend it as a tobacco harm reduction product. There’s no denying that many people enjoy tobacco and derive benefits from it that enhances their lives. Tobacco is so popular all over the world for this simple reason. For centuries, anti-tobacco crusaders have tried to forbid, …

Read More »

What about nicotine addiction?

When people use the word addiction they are typically referring to some kind of habitual behavior that negatively affects someone’s health, well-being, and ability to function in life. We all know or have heard of people so involved with consuming certain substances (e.g., alcohol, heroin) and engaging in certain activities (e.g., gambling, shopping) to the point that it has clearly …

Read More »

Can I use smokeless tobacco to quit smoking?

Yes! There are several advantages of using smokeless tobacco as a substitute for smoking in an attempt to quit. Using smokeless tobacco is a particularly efficient way to get nicotine into the bloodstream, far more efficient than nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) like patches or gum. The uptake of nicotine to the brain with smokeless tobacco rivals that of smoking. This …

Read More »