From Smoker to Smokeless

A cancer center seeks to convert smokers into smokeless tobacco users.

OWENSBORO, Ky. -- The James Graham Brown Cancer Center and the University of Louisville have brought a "Switch and Quit" campaign to Owensboro, Ky.

The program uses print, radio, billboard and other advertising to urge smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco and other products that deliver nicotine without smoke, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The "Switch and Quit" campaign is directed by Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, who analyzed the 2000 National Health Interview Survey—and found male smokers who switched to smokeless tobacco were more likely to quit smoking than those who used traditional nicotine patches or gum.

Dr. Donald Miller, an oncologist and director of the cancer center, said, "This is as reasonable a scientific hypothesis as anybody has come up with and it needs to be tried."

The program is funded through Rodu's research money, which includes grants from the tobacco industry, although Rodu said that there is no influence on the research. "I decide, along with my colleagues, how we use the money, for what projects, and this is entirely the case."

The Owensboro program has raised concerns among public health advocates, however, about claims that smokeless tobacco is a healthier alternative without approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called the program "a giant experiment with the people of Owensboro without rules or guidance designed to protect individuals from experimental medicine," according to the report.

Owensboro and its surrounding area consume about 3 million cigarettes a week, according to the program—well over a pack per person in its population of 115,000.

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