Smokeless tobacco provides the former smoker with nicotine. This seems to pose a problem only to staunch anti-tobacco activists who are committed to total tobacco abstinence. It is true that some persons who switch might otherwise quit tobacco entirely. But there are millions of smokers who cannot quit, for existing quit-smoking methods are minimally successful. Let's face reality: each year 419,000 nicotine addicts do not quit soon enough to avoid a premature death. Why compel nicotine-seeking smokers to choose only between inhaling tobacco smoke and abstinence? Smokers who switch to smokeless tobacco can still strive for nicotine abstinence after the delivery system has been changed.
We emphasize that nicotine is the reason people smoke but not the reason that smokers die. In the fall of 1995 a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel echoed our sentiment when it recommended that nicotine gum be released from prescription status in order to make it more widely available. With this action the panel supports our position: that quitting smoking -- without necessarily quitting nicotine -- is the key to reducing health risks. Smokeless tobacco, which is already available without prescription, is another acceptable alternative.