01 Jul 2003 Choosing to Chew – Why Do Advocates of Choice Draw the Line at Tobacco?
Anti-smoking advocates don’t want you to compare the health risks of smoking and using smokeless tobacco because they oppose all tobacco use. They tout a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which shows smokeless tobacco leads to oral cancer rates higher than non-use. But they fail to point out that smokers who switch to smokeless tobacco reduce their risk of developing oral cancer by 50 percent. Also, it seems counter- intuitive for activists to campaign aggressively against second-hand smoke yet oppose smokeless tobacco.
Abstinence-only activists worry that if tobacco companies are allowed to show tobacco users how to minimize their health risks, the companies will entice new users. This is the impetus behind their campaigns attacking any kind of tobacco advertising.
But why should abstinence from tobacco be the only answer? The answer is that the activists are really arguing over morality. Many liberals tolerate promiscuity and drug use, but not tobacco. Most conservatives have strict moral objections to promiscuity and drug use, but don’t think using tobacco is a sin. Both sides construct abstinence programs to reflect their moral opinions. An alternative like smokeless tobacco only seems incomprehensible if you are morally opposed to tobacco use.