Now I could quibble, and point out that the tax on snus is not, say 99% lower than the cigarette tax, to reflect something closer to its 99% lower risk. It is impossible to quantify with any specificity the lower risk of snus compared to cigarettes.
Cigarettes are so harmful because the tobacco is burned and its smoke inhaled. Snus, which is certainly not a risk-free tobacco alternative, is certainly far less harmful than cigarettes, simply because users don't smoke it. It is about time that at least one state's tax policy is catching up with this reality.
A growing group of public health advocates is excited about the potential for snus to help tobacco users lower their risk. Of course, we'd prefer if everyone stopped using all forms of tobacco completely and immediately. If it were only that easy. So we endorse the use of snus and other smokeless tobacco products as a means of "harm reduction" to reduce the risk of tobacco use for those who have repeatedly tried to quit smoking by other means and failed. I'd rather see someone exposed to the lower risk of snus than the higher risk of continued smoking. Indiana's new approach to taxing snus is a move towards embracing the harm reduction model and should be applauded.
— Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division. Follow him at @JeffAStier on Twitter.