NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The "Quit-Or-Die" Lobby

September 22, 2003

For the past four decades, the anti-tobacco lobby has consistently encouraged the government to issue warnings on the health risks of smoking, and efforts have paid off: Between 1965 and 2000, the proportion of U.S. adults who smoked dropped from 42 to 25 percent.

However, one-quarter of adults continue to smoke despite the well-known risks, and the anti-tobacco lobby rejects attempts to educate smokers about "safer" alternatives like smokeless tobacco.

Sweden, however, has improved public health by encouraging smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco:

  • Half of all tobacco use in Sweden is now smokeless, and the country has the lowest level of tobacco-related death in the developed world.
  • Sweden has the lowest male smoking rate in Europe: 16 percent.
  • Its rate of cancer mortality is among the lowest in Europe.

Furthermore, a study conducted by the European Union found that smokeless tobacco has a cessation effect on smoking: Many smokers quit using cigarettes after switching to smokeless tobacco.

Although smokeless tobacco is not entirely risk-free -- it increases the risk of oral cancer -- it is far less harmful than cigarettes, yet anti-tobacco lobbyists refuse to endorse it as an alternative to smoking.

In February 2002, 39 public health groups signed a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking it to reject the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company's petition to advertise the relative benefits of smokeless tobacco.

Source: John K. Carlisle, "The Dangerous Anti-Smoking Lobby," Organization Trends, July 2003, Capital Research Center.


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