It has been well-documented for 20 years that virtually all health risks associated with cigarettes stem from the smoke. As a scientist at a major cancer center, I have been dismayed as government health officials and other medical authorities continue to misinform smokers, insisting that chewing, dipping and using e-cigarettes is as dangerous as smoking.
One egregious example of this unprincipled campaign was the demonization of smokeless tobacco as the cause of baseball star Tony Gwynn's death from salivary gland cancer earlier this year. Brian King, scientific adviser in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's office of smoking and health, told Fox News, "With smokeless use, it's primarily in the oral region, (which is) why we're seeing a lot of cancers associated with smokeless tobacco around the oral cavity."
This is simply false. The vast majority of mouth cancers are associated with smoking, alcohol abuse and HPV infection. Numerous epidemiological studies show that there is little to no mouth cancer risk associated with American chewing tobacco, moist snuff or Swedish snus (http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1741-7015-7-36.pdf ). Additionally, there is no scientific link between tobacco use and salivary gland cancer.
This isn't to say that smokeless tobacco is risk-free, but the health effects from its use are so small that they can't be measured with any precision. Statistically, using smokeless tobacco is no more dangerous than driving a car.
In 1995, determined to share the facts with the nation's smokers, I published a book, "For Smokers Only: How Smokeless Tobacco Can Save Your Life." The e-book, with a fresh chapter on e-cigarettes, is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. There's also a just-released audiobook version. You'll find extensive scientific and medical evidence supporting a switch from smoke to smoke-free tobacco.
My science-based advice is simple: You can quit smoking without quitting tobacco and nicotine. Twenty years ago, there weren't a lot of smoke-free cigarette substitutes. But now there are numerous options at convenience stores and vape shops, so there's no excuse not to switch.
If you're thinking that the idea of switching from cigarettes to smoke-free tobacco is an industry ploy, rest assured that it is not. This strategy, known as tobacco harm reduction, is supported by tobacco research and policy experts around the world. It's been endorsed by the British Royal College of Physicians, the American Association of Public Health Physicians and the Canadian Non-Smokers' Rights Association, among others.
The Royal College, one of the world's oldest and most prestigious medical societies, reported in 2002 that, "As a way of using nicotine, the consumption of non-combustible (smokeless) tobacco is on the order of 10-1,000 times less hazardous than smoking, depending on the product." In 2007, the society concluded that "smokers smoke predominantly for nicotine, that nicotine itself is not especially hazardous, and that if nicotine could be provided in a form that is acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved."
The AAPHP in 2008 was the first U.S. medical organization to formally adopt a policy of "encouraging and enabling smokers to reduce their risk of tobacco-related illness and death by switching to less hazardous, smokeless tobacco products."
The NSRA in 2010 recommended snus, a Swedish smokeless tobacco product, as a far less harmful substitute for "smokers who are unable to quit or unwilling to make a quit attempt," under the principle that "the public has the right ... to accurate information about the relative risks of using tobacco products and to make choices based on the facts."
To see the potential public health impact of smoke-free tobacco, look at Sweden. Twenty years ago, I noticed that rates of lung cancer, the sentinel disease of smoking, among Swedish men were the lowest in the world. In 2002, I published the first scientific analysis of the role of snus in replacing cigarettes and reducing disease.
Today, in addition to smokeless tobacco, smokers have the option of switching to e-cigarettes, battery-powered devices that deliver a vapor of water, nicotine, flavorings and propylene glycol. (The latter is used to produce artificial smoke in theater productions and rock concerts.) E-cigarettes are sold in a variety of styles, from small, single-use or rechargeable devices that look like cigarettes to larger models that can be modified to provide higher vapor volumes and custom nicotine levels and flavors. E-cigars and e-pipes are also available.
E-cigarettes have rapidly emerged as the most popular of a range of smoke-free products. One tobacco analyst believes that e-cig sales could overtake traditional cigarettes in the next decade.
Smokers are finally learning the truth and taking steps to avoid smoke-induced cancers, heart attacks and emphysema. Eliminate the smoke and you eliminate almost all of the health risks associated with tobacco. Smokers who thought they couldn't quit can continue to enjoy tobacco satisfaction by joining the smoke-free revolution.
For more information about e-cigarettes, visit the E-Cigarette Forum (www.e-cigarette-forum.com). This website contains an excellent Beginners E-cig Tutorial and recommendations for starter products.