tobacco harm reductionIn case you didn’t know, Tobacco Harm Reduction is a movement proposing that government agencies take the stand that smokers who can’t or won’t quit smoking should switch to a reduced harm tobacco product such as Snus, chew, lozenges, or electronic cigarettes.  The Abstinence point of view is that all tobacco is bad and should be essentially treated equally.

The truth is, both ideologies have their issues.  Tobacco Harm Reduction may, in theory, just move smokers from a really harm product to a less harmful product when it would be in their best [health] interests to quit tobacco use altogether.  The issue with the Abstinence stance is that there are no examples of where this government stance has been effective.

To read some professional views, I recommend this pro Tobacco Harm Reduction article on  For an idea about how abstinence only works I recommend visiting a speak-easy between 1920 and 1933.

Here is some history of the difference between the concepts of harm reduction and abstinence only:

Abstinence Only

Alcohol in the US between 1920 and 1933 – Result: Otherwise law abiding citizens visited illegal bars to get a drink after work.  These bars generally obtained their booze from illegal sources such as the Mob, which grew out of control during the prohibition period.

Sex abstinence is taught in US schools – Result: Teen pregnancies rise as per this published study.

Marijuana is illegal in most countries – Result: People still smoke marijuana

Gay marriage is constitutionally banned in Texas (and some other States) – Result: At least some Texans are still gay.

Harm Reduction

Alcohol is legalized – Result: Laws are made to protect the public (i.e. drinking and driving laws, public intoxication, percent of alcohol allowed) and the product is taxed to subsidize any negative societal consequences.

Sex education is taught more frequently in Canada and Sweden than in the US – Result: The US has twice the teen pregnacy rates of Canada and Sweden per this publication.

Marijuana is “legal” in the Netherlands – Result: Every kid backpacking after graduation wants to go there.

Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts – Result: Some Texans are still gay.


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