Tobacco Use & Health

Harm Reduction

Despite the reductions in smoking that have been achieved, millions of adult Americans continue to smoke. For the foreseeable future, this will remain the case. Because of this practical reality, some stakeholders in the public health community are increasingly recognizing that policies directed at end points other than the total elimination of smoking, such as reduced exposure, should be adopted. In that regard, a broader notion of tobacco harm reduction is increasingly being advocated as a potentially important goal to pursue in addressing tobacco-related public health concerns.

You can learn more at the Transforming Tobacco section of the Reynolds American Inc. website about R.J. Reynolds’ approach to tobacco harm reduction.

In 2008, the American Association of Public Health Physicians published a white paper adopting migration as a tobacco harm reduction strategy.

See what some scientists and public health officials say about tobacco use and harm reduction.


  • “‘Tobacco Harm Reduction’ is taken to mean encouraging and enabling smokers to reduce their risk of tobacco-related illness and death by switching to less hazardous smokeless tobacco products.”

– Nitzkin and Rodu, American Association of Public Health Physicians, 2008


Views on Tobacco Harm Reduction

  • “(N)umerous alternative systems for nicotine delivery exist, many of them far safer than smoking. A pragmatic, public-health approach to tobacco control would recognize a continuum of risk and encourage nicotine users to move themselves down the risk spectrum by choosing safer alternatives to smoking – without demanding abstinence.”

– Sweanor et al., International Journal of Drug Policy, 2007

  • “Smokers concerned about their health should not be diverted by these new tobacco products and should instead utilize scientifically proven methods to help them quit …”

– Matt Myers, president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

  • “In practical terms, enhancement of current policies based on the premise that all tobacco products are equally risky will yield only small and barely measurable reductions in tobacco-related illness and death. Addition of a harm reduction component, however, could yield a 50% to 80% reduction in tobacco-related illness and death over the first ten years, and a likely reduction of up to 90% within 20 years.”

– Nitzkin and Rodu, American Association of Public Health Physicians, 2008

  • “All forms of tobacco are bad … We shouldn’t be out there promoting harm, even reduced harm.”

– Dr. Gregory Connolly, director – tobacco contral research Harvard School of Public Health

  • Harm reduction is a fundamental component of many aspects of medicine and, indeed, everyday life, yet for some reason effective harm reduction principles have not been applied to tobacco smoking… it is very clear that, for most of the major health effects of tobacco, smoking is many times more dangerous than smokeless tobacco use.”

– Royal College of Physicians, 2007


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