Will switching to smoke-free tobacco help smokers quit? That's the gamble a Kentucky cancer center is making with its new "Switch and Quit" campaign.
"We need something that works better than what we have," said Donald Miller, M.D., an oncologist and director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
"This is as reasonable a scientific hypothesis as anybody has come up with and it needs to be tried."
The center and the University of Louisville have bought print, radio, billboard, and other advertising in the city of Owensboro to help residents kick the habit. Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the university, directs the campaign based on his analysis of the 2000 National Health Interview Survey, in which he found that men who switched to smokeless tobacco were more likely to quit than those who used nicotine patches or gum.
Meanwhile, the position of others in the public health community is that there is no safe way to use tobacco. The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health states on its website that there is "no scientific evidence that using smokeless tobacco can help a person quit smoking."
The "Switch and Quit" campaign is funded by Rodu's research funds, including grants from the tobacco industry, although Rodu insists that "There's absolutely no influence whatsoever."
Tobacco companies are eager to come up with a tobacco alternative to make up for falling cigarette sales. Some of these alternatives include "snus" (tea bag-like pouches to place between check and gum) and dissolvable tobacco.
Federal law currently prohibits them from marketing such products as less risky than cigarettes.