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Research Review

Altria’s Promotion of Smokeless Tobacco Latest Route Around Regulations

“The tobacco industry has always been very nimble and aggressive in its responses to new regulations, and Altria’s current attempts to market smokeless tobacco as ‘less harmful’ are no exception,” says Douglas Luke, PhD, a professor and director of the Center for Tobacco Policy Research at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. “Part of what we're seeing here is the tobacco industry trying to position smokeless tobacco products so that they either do not come under the new FDA regulations or they come under weaker regulations.”

Luke says that although it may be true that use of an individual smokeless tobacco product may be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, it is important to look at the bigger picture. “As the use of smokeless tobacco products has increased, we haven't seen any subsequent decrease in cigarette usage,” he says.

“One possible reason for the tobacco industry pushing smokeless products so hard is that there is a strong possibility that use of smokeless tobacco will actually make it harder for smokers to quit.”

According to Luke, although smokeless products by themselves may be safer than cigarettes, there may be increased health risks at a population level because smoking-cessation rates may not go down as smokeless use goes up.

“It may be obvious, but just because smokeless products are less dangerous than cigarettes, it does not make them safe,” he says. “All tobacco products contain addictive nicotine, and there are no health benefits of addictive nicotine.”

— Source: Washington University in St. Louis