Obviously, nicotine use is a popular and tenacious habit. Equally obviously, tobacco policy is a failure. Surveys show that a majority of current smokers would like good alternatives to smoking as ways of getting nicotine. But we will not tell nicotine users that there are safe ways to continue to use the legal drug they crave. Apparently, our policymakers would rather see those people get sick and die...
Smokeless tobacco would work. It comes in several forms. One is chewing tobacco, made famous by cowboys and ballplayers. But other forms are handier, less messy and far less dangerous than smoking. Yet health officials label smokeless tobacco as "not a safe alternative to smoking," despite much evidence that it is quite safe. Indeed, current policy is so wedded to nicotine abstinence that officials will lie to discourage widespread use of smokeless tobacco as a way of delivering the drug.
He quotes a study, which found that the mortality rate for smokeless tobacco is "about a hundredth of that from smoking."
The youth of North Carolina have known this for years. Many of my friends went from smoking in high school to dipping or chewing in college when they realized they needed to cut it out. Today, many of them have quit dipping or do it at a much lower level. It seemed to work for them much better than cold turkey.
The op-ed even uses a light hand with "social smoking":
And then there's what many smokers nowadays really do: Mix periods of abstinence (encouraged by smoke-free workplaces and restaurants) with periods of light smoking. Mixing light or occasional smoking with other nicotine-delivery products might be even safer -- but it can't be studied as a possible alternative because current funding goes only to research on how to quit smoking, not on finding a safe level of smoking.
The politically incorrect guide to quitting smoking is not so bad if it actually makes fewer people dead.
In closing, I leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs-- a musical tribute to that lovely, spit-cup-carrying, Skoal-ring-forming, lady-conquering habit. Robert Earl Keen's "Copenhagen":
Copenhagen, what a wad of flavor.
Copenhagen, you can see it in my smile.
Copenhagen, do yourself a favor.
Chew Copenhagen, drive them pretty girls wild.
Incidentally, I have it on good authority-- from Dave Holman, who writes for the American Spectator blog and who wrote the Spectator's cover story this month on Sen. George Allen-- that the presidential aspirant himself likes the Copenhagen.