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Research Evidence: The Switch is Working for American Men

Switching to smokeless tobacco as a smoking cessation method: evidence from the 2000 National Health Interview Survey, by Brad Rodu and Carl V. Phillips. Published in Harm Reduction Journal, 2008.

A brief description follows, but you can download the complete article in pdf format from the Harm Reduction Journal website here.

Although smokeless tobacco (ST) use has played a major role in the low smoking prevalence among Swedish men, there was little information at the population level about ST as a smoking cessation aid in the U.S. 

This research study used the 2000 National Health Interview Survey to estimate the number of male smokers who had tried twelve different methods in their most recent quit attempt and how many were former or current smokers at the time of the survey.

An estimated 359,000 men had switched to ST in their most recent quit attempt.  This method had the highest proportion of successes among those attempting it (73%), representing 261,000 successful quitters (switchers).  In comparison, the nicotine patch had been used by an estimated 2.9 million men in their most recent quit attempt, and only 35% were former smokers at the time of the survey.  Of the 964,000 men using nicotine gum, about 34% became former smokers.  Of the 98,000 men who used the nicotine inhaler, only 28% quit successfully.  None of the estimated 14,000 men who tried the nicotine nasal spray became former smokers.

Forty-two percent of switchers also reported quitting smoking all at once, which was higher than among former smokers who used medications (8-19%).  Although 40% of switchers quit smoking less than 5 years before the survey, 21% quit over 20 years earlier.  Forty-six percent of switchers were current ST users at the time of the survey.

This study shows that switching to ST compares very favorably with pharmaceutical nicotine as a quit-smoking aid among American men, despite the fact that few smokers know that the switch provides almost all of the health benefits of complete tobacco abstinence.  The results of this study show that tobacco harm reduction is a viable cessation option for American smokers. (U of L)