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Vaping facts, harm reduction facts, and smokeless tobacco facts. Look through a list of frequently asked questions and find the answers below!

Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction recognizes the reality that lowering risk – rather than striving to eliminate it completely – is more achievable, compassionate, and effective at improving public health than forbidding risky behaviors. Instead of trying to convince or force people to stop doing something, harm reduction promotes education and gives people safer ways of doing it. Read more here.

No. Safer does not mean 100% safe. Reducing harm doesn’t completely eliminate it, but drastically lowering risks has a net positive effect on individual and public health.

Tobacco Harm Reduction (or THR) is simply harm reduction applied specifically to people who use tobacco products.

It includes promoting the use of safer nicotine products which can help people who smoke switch away from cigarettes but still consume nicotine. By eliminating the combustion, safer nicotine products eliminate a majority of the health risks associated with smoked tobacco products. Read more here.

Quitting smoking (and nicotine) all together may be the healthiest option, but many people feel unable or unwilling to do so. For them, switching to smoke-free nicotine products is almost as good as quitting completely. We also know that the longer someone smokes the worse it is for their health. Switching to safer products now is beneficial over quitting later. Read more here.

Low-risk nicotine products come in many forms. Here is a list of examples:

  • Smokeless tobacco (such as “dip,” “chew,” and Swedish snus)
  • Electronic cigarettes (vaping)
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) (such as patches, lozenges, and gum)
  • Nicotine pouches (similar in form to snus, but do not contain leaf tobacco)
  • Heat Not Burn devices

Yes. Over the last several decades a significant number of people in Sweden (predominantly men) replaced smoking cigarettes with “snus” (a Swedish smokeless tobacco product). What has become known as “The Swedish Experience” is not a result of any anti-smoking campaign, but rather an organic social process that resulted in a huge public health triumph.

Swedish men have a very low rate of cancer and other diseases attributed to smoking – the same rates you’d expect to see in a population that quit smoking. Evidence shows that the widespread use of smokeless tobacco is not causing any substantial disease risk. Similar trends are now being observed in Norway, and even the United States has seen a significant decline in adult and youth smoking as the popularity of vaping has increased.

The effects of nicotine are similar to that of another popular drug: Caffeine. There is no evidence that nicotine causes any substantial risk for cancer, and the research shows that the risk for cardiovascular disease is minimal.

The confusion about nicotine comes from anti-smoking activists who talk about nicotine and smoking as if they were the same. While it is true that people smoke mostly because of nicotine, it’s the smoke that is responsible for nearly all of the early death and disease.

Though nicotine can be consumed safely by most individuals (evident by the availability of over-the-counter NRT), it may have a negative effect on fetal development and women who are pregnant should consult with their doctor regarding plans for smoking or nicotine cessation. Read more here.

When people use the word “addiction,” they are typically referring to some kind of habitual behavior that negatively affects someone’s health, well-being, and ability to function in life.

Using safer nicotine products does not fall into this category. The more accurate term would be “dependence,” which typically means someone is physically or mentally reliant on a product – but it’s not negatively affecting their life. Many people would admit to being dependent on caffeine, but we wouldn’t call it an addiction because coffee doesn’t ruin lives, break up families, cause financial problems, or pose a threat to health at a population level.

People using safer nicotine products may be dependent on nicotine, but it’s typically no more problematic than needing that first cup of coffee in the morning. Read more here.

Electronic Cigarettes

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that work by vaporizing a solution of propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, and flavoring. The solution is often referred to as “e-liquid” and usually includes nicotine, but that is optional. The result is something that feels somewhat like smoke in the mouth and lungs, but without involving any real smoke or combustion. Read more here.

Yes. According to an extensive report written by the prestigious Royal College of Physicians, “e-cigarette use is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.” They go on to say, “in the interests of public health, it’s important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT, and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking.” Read more here.

No. As vaping rates have increased over the past decade, smoking rates have reached record lows across all age groups. If vaping led to smoking, smoking rates would be increasing, not declining. Therefore, there is zero evidence that vaping leads to smoking. Read more here.

No. Despite the name, both FDA and CDC have concluded the vast majority of cases were linked to tainted THC vapor products, not nicotine vapor products. Only 14% of EVALI patients claimed they did not use THC products. However, neither CDC nor FDA have reported finding any contaminated nicotine products that could have caused the injury. Read more here.

No. Most vapor products do not contain diacetyl, the chemical linked to popcorn lung. Moreover, cigarettes contain diacetyl at higher levels than ever found in vapor products, yet smoking is not considered a risk for popcorn lung. Read more here.

There is no evidence that vaping causes seizures. A widely-reported cross-sectional study claimed to have found a “correlation,” but closer scrutiny of the data showed that the seizures were more likely coincidence. Read more here.

Similar to the study of seizures, researchers were only able to find a correlation, not causation. Additionally, many of those reporting the heart attack or stroke were not only already high risk because of decades of smoking, but had the event before they started vaping. Read more here.

Yes. Not only are there clinical studies showing that vaping helps people quit smoking, there are tens of thousands of testimonials from adults who had smoked for decades and were able to quit by switching to vapor products. There are 13 million adult vapers in the US for a reason. If the products didn’t work, they wouldn’t sell! Read more here.

Yes. After using pleasant-tasting vapor products, adults report that they no longer enjoy the taste of cigarette smoke. Vapor flavors are no different than the nicotine gums and lozenges intended for adults, which come in flavors like mint, cinnamon, orange, cherry and tropical fruit. Read more here.

There is no evidence that any youth try vaping only because of the flavors. In 2019, nearly 78% of youth reported they tried vaping for reasons unrelated to flavors. Moreover, these statistics were based on a question that allowed multiple answers, not one that ranked importance. In media interviews, teens report vaping for “a buzz,” which was not one of the options given on the survey.

Maybe. Today, we are confident that vaping is safer than smoking. But compared to smokeless tobacco, vapor products are relatively new. To date, the longest study following a group of vapers collected data for 3.5 years. Long term studies will need to consider data collected over 10, 15, or 20 years. For the time being, it is reasonable to assume that vapor and smokeless tobacco pose similar risks. Read more here.

Smokeless Tobacco

As the name implies, smokeless, oral tobacco products are not burned. They contain leaf tobacco and are used by placing pouches or pinches in the mouth. Read more here.

Smokeless products are placed it in the mouth between the gum and upper lip and may or may not require spitting. Read more here.

Before the invention of the cigarette rolling machine made smoking cheap and popular, smokeless tobacco was the most widely used tobacco product because of its convenience. Many people today prefer smokeless tobacco because it is discreet (“snus” doesn’t require spitting), convenient, available in a variety of flavors, and it delivers nicotine with dramatically lower health risks than combustible (smoking) products.

No. A careful and critical review of decades of research on smokeless tobacco users shows the health risks are very low. Smokeless tobacco users (who do not smoke) get cancer, dental problems, and other diseases at virtually the same rate as non-users of smokeless tobacco. Read more here.

We know from decades of research that smoked tobacco products pose a far greater risk to health than smokeless products. Yet, anti-tobacco activists are crusading for a “tobacco-free world.” Regardless of the science, anti-tobacco campaigns exaggerate the risks of smokeless tobacco, and downplay or ignore research that challenges their opinion. Acknowledging the complexity of some tobacco products being safer than others dilutes the anti-tobacco message that abstinence is the only solution.

Yes! Smokeless tobacco is comparable to nicotine replacement therapies (NRT), like patches or gum, when it comes to quitting smoking. Like NRT, smokeless tobacco provides a steady dose of nicotine and helps you avoid the cycle of withdrawal. Plus, you can use some smokeless tobacco products virtually anywhere. Learn more here.