FAQ Menu
Harm Reduction
Smokeless Tobacco
Health Effects of ST
Electronic Cigarettes
Other Nicotine Products
All about Nicotine
Quitting Smoking or Switching
Who to Believe

Most Asked Questions (MAQ)

[1] If you really care about health, why don't you help people quit rather than promote other sources of nicotine?

The people who aren't quitting need consideration too. There are thousands of people and billions of dollars devoted to promoting tobacco abstinence, but about 20% of the population continues to smoke. We are working where we think our efforts are most needed.

[2] Why can't people just quit?

We all know people who have tried to quit and haven't been able to. If they can't stop using nicotine, and there are healthier alternatives to their habit, shouldn't they have the option of trying them?

And let's not forget that people have the freedom to use nicotine if they wish to. If they decide for any reason to keep using it, there are still good reasons to make safer sources available. It would save lives if people wouldn't drive, but we won't make people stop, and we won't stop trying to make it safer just because they keep doing it.

[3] Won't saying smokeless tobacco or e-cigarettes are safer create new users who otherwise would never have used nicotine?

It's almost a certainty, but the net effects for public health will undoubtedly be positive. For every smoker who switched to ST, over 50 non-smokers would have to start using ST to cancel out the health benefits, and that is not going to happen.

In addition, not telling the truth would violate one of the most fundamental rules of health ethics: Experts are obligated to tell people the truth and let them make their own decisions. This includes letting smokers know that they have safer alternatives. It also means letting non-users know how low the risks from these alternatives are; if they decide that using one of them is worth those low risks, that is their right (it is not that we want them to do this, but they have the right to make choices about their own health).

[4] I would like to try switching to one of these safer products. Where can I buy them?

Though we do encourage smokers to switch to these safer products, we are not in the business of selling or endorsing any particular brands.

A number of different types of smokeless tobacco should be easy to find. Usually, you can find ST wherever cigarettes are sold. And like any other tobacco, it can also be ordered over the internet for home mail delivery.

For electronic cigarettes, the situation is more complicated. In Canada and some other countries, they have already been banned, and in others they are in the process of being restricted in some fashion or becoming accepted products. In most countries, they can be ordered online. See here for more information.

[5] Isn't it naive to trust anything that comes out of the tobacco industry?

What the industry does is irrelevant to whether the health claims are real or not. Switching from smoking to using ST reduces your health risk whether the tobacco companies say it does or doesn't or whether they make money or not.

Some people say that the reduced harm of switching to ST is just another industry lie like "light" cigarettes. There was never any scientific evidence that light cigarettes would be less harmful, and they were not. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that ST is much less harmful.

[6] Doesn't smokeless tobacco give you oral cancer?

Any risk of oral cancer from ST is so low that we cannot measure it. According to the Surgeon General, 75% of the oral cancers in the United States are caused by smoking (particularly when combined with heavy drinking).

Many studies have show that smoking increases your risk about 10 times and that if there is an increased risk from ST, it is perhaps around one tenth. In other words, not only is using ST associated with over 99% less risk overall, compared to cigarettes, but it is also associated with over 99% less risk of oral cancer.

[7] I've read that each tin of snuff has the same amount of nicotine as 60 cigarettes. Isn't that a fatal dose?

Yes, and each package of Nicorette gum (110 pieces at 4 mg each) contains more nicotine than about 200 cigarettes and a box of 21 Nicoderm patches (21 mg each) contains roughly the amount of nicotine you would find in 260 cigarettes.

Does this mean that Nicorette and Nicoderm are worse or as bad as cigarettes? Does it mean that using these pharmaceutical products are worse than using ST? Nicotine may be addictive but when considering using tobacco the smoke is what you should be worrying about.

Nicotine users, whether smokers, smokeless users, or pharmaceutical nicotine users, determine how much nicotine they take at a time. If you were determined to overdose on nicotine, a package of patches would be much more likely to do the job than tobacco products. A bottle of Tylenol contains a fatal dose too but is that an argument against using it? You would not use it all at once, so this is really just a scare tactic. After all, your refrigerator probably contains a fatal dose of food, but you are not likely to eat it all at once.

For more questions, and more in depth discussion of these same quesions, go to our FAQ section or see our Reading Lists.

Bookmark and Share