University of Louisville research shows substituting with smokeless tobacco saves lives

Presentation at AAAS shows scientific foundation for tobacco harm reduction efforts

UofL research shows substituting with smokeless tobacco saves livesBrad Rodu, D.D.S.

Substituting smokeless tobacco products can save smokers’ lives, and there is a scientific foundation that proves it.

That is the message Brad Rodu, D.D.S., professor of medicine at the University of Louisville (UofL) School of Medicine and the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction at UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, delivered at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Feb. 18. Rodu spoke at the session, “Harm Reduction: Policy Change to Reduce the Global Toll of Smoking-Related Disease.”

“Quit or die: That’s been the brutal message delivered to 45 million American smokers, and it has helped contribute to 443,000 deaths per year, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Rodu said. “The truth, however, is that total nicotine and tobacco abstinence is unattainable and unnecessary for many smokers.”

Rodu’s presentation, “Transforming Tobacco Use: The Potential of Tobacco Harm Reduction,” was based on his almost 20 years of research. His work shows that smokers can greatly reduce their risk of disease and death by replacing smoking products with e-cigarettes or modern, spit-free smokeless tobacco. These products provide a much safer alternative for those smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking because they continue to deliver nicotine without the harmful effect of smoking.

“Nicotine is addictive, but it is not the cause of any smoking-related disease. Like caffeine, nicotine can be used safely by consumers,” Rodu said.

Decades of epidemiologic research bear out Rodu’s findings. While no tobacco product is completely safe, smokeless products have been shown to be 98 percent safer than cigarettes. In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Physicians reported in 2002 that smokeless tobacco is up to 1,000 times less hazardous than smoking, and in 2007, further urged world governments to seriously consider instituting tobacco harm reduction strategies as a means to save lives.

To see the proof of what tobacco harm reduction can do, look to Sweden, Rodu said. “Over the past 50 years, Swedish men have had Europe’s highest per capita consumption of smokeless tobacco as well as Europe’s lowest cigarette use. During the same time, they also have the lowest rate of lung cancer than men in any other European country.”

In the United States., steps have been made to document the value of tobacco harm reduction. In 2006, a National Cancer Institute-funded study estimated that if tobacco harm reduction was “responsibly communicated” to smokers, 4 million would switch to smokeless tobacco. The American Council on Science and Health – which organized Rodu’s session at the AAAS Annual Meeting – concluded in the same year that tobacco harm reduction “shows great potential as a public health strategy to help millions of smokers.”

Rodu is well aware of the controversy his research findings generate. Opponents of any use of nicotine delivery products maintain that smokeless tobacco puts the user at great risk for oral cancer, a position not supported by research.

“The risk of mouth cancer among smokeless tobacco users is extremely low – certainly lower than the risk of smoking-related diseases among smokers,” he said. “The annual mortality rate among long-term dry snuff users is 12 deaths per 100,000 and the rate among users of more popular snus, moist snuff and chewing tobacco is much lower.  For perspective, the death rate among automobile users is 11 per 100,000 according to a 2009 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Compare those to the rate among smokers: more than 600 deaths per 100,000 every year”

“The data clearly show that smokeless tobacco users have, at most, about the same risk of dying from mouth cancer as automobile users have of dying in a car wreck.”

About Brad Rodu

Rodu earned his dental degree from The Ohio State University. After an oral pathology residency program at Emory University, he completed fellowships at the University of Alabama at Birmingham sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. He was on the UAB faculty from 1981 to 2005 with appointments in several departments in the schools of Medicine, Public Health and Dentistry. He joined the UofL faculty in 2005. His research is supported by unrestricted grants from tobacco manufacturers to the University of Louisville and by the Kentucky Research Challenge Trust Fund.

I’d like to thank Brad for his significant work in the area of harm reduction! Please read his work. Comments as always are welcome.


#1 Candy Girl on 02.21.12 at 11:35 AM

The “war against smoking” has now morphed into the “war against tobacco”- all tobacco. I believe that this is one where, eventually, common sense will prevail and reduced harm will emerge as the predominant position- thanks to researchers and professionals like Dr. Rodu. But, it’s important that those with tobacco interests remain involved and active throughout the process. The forces against tobacco in any and all forms are well-funded and focused.

#2 stoppen met roken tips on 02.23.12 at 6:52 PM

Hi i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace, when i read this post i thought i could also make comment due to this good paragraph.

#3 torrent on 02.25.12 at 1:43 AM

Its like you read my thoughts! You seem to grasp so much about this, like you wrote the ebook in it or something. I feel that you could do with a few % to force the message house a little bit, but other than that, that is fantastic blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

#4 Swedish Snus Blog on 04.14.12 at 4:46 AM

Brad Rodu, D.D.S may have saved my life. Several years ago I was trying everything to quit smoking. I had read a lot about Swedish snus but was not sure to believe what I was reading. Having been told over and over that all tobacco was equally bad I was not sure if snus was a scam or not. Then I read for smokers only. Bought some Swedish snus and quit. That was five or so years ago. One of the best things I ever did. Thanks!

#5 Samuel van Sandijk on 02.23.13 at 9:33 AM

De E-sigaret, is voor mij een echte oplossing. Ik zag echt op tegen het stoppen met roken, dit omdat de afkick verschijnselen groot zijn. Met de e-sigaret is roken voor mij de oplossing. Toch gezonder, en ook een voldaan gevoel hebben. Top ik kan het iedere roker aanraden!! Ik ben toch een zware roker, en heb nu de oplossing gevonden in mijn rookgedrag. Samuel uit Nederland.

#6 Samuel van Sandijk on 02.23.13 at 9:35 AM

The E-cigarette, is for me a real solution. I saw really against smoking cessation, because the withdrawal symptoms are large. With the e-cigarette smoking is for me the solution. Nevertheless, healthier, and also a satisfied feeling. Top I can recommend every smoker! I’m a heavy smoker, and have now found the solution to my smoking habit. Samuel from the Netherlands.

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