Don't be fooled: Smokeless tobacco is dangerous

January 31, 2012

I was dismayed by the letter written by Brad Rodu minimizing the devastating health consequences caused by using smokeless tobacco products ("All tobacco is not equally harmful," Jan. 24).

Dr. Rodu is a dentist and scientist at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. He receives funding from the tobacco industry and promotes the false virtues of chewing tobacco, snuff and other smokeless tobacco products. A quick Google search reveals he has been carrying the tobacco industry's water for more than 20 years now.

Contrary to Dr. Rodu's statements, regular use of smokeless tobacco products can lead to the presence of oral cancer within an alarmingly swift five years. Here in Maryland, 79 percent of high school students who use tobacco are not smoking cigarettes but using an alternative tobacco product. We also know that adolescent boys who use smokeless tobacco products have a higher risk of becoming cigarette smokers within just four years.

Because up to half of all smokers will die from their addiction, the tobacco industry knows it must continue to reinvent itself to appeal to the culture and tastes of each new generation. Candy-flavored smokeless tobacco products seems to be the latest ploy to hook our sons and daughters into an addiction that could cost them their lives.

Gov.Martin O'Malley's plan to increase the tax rate on these harmful products will allow Maryland to realize a one-third decrease in the use of these products by our children. That's a lifesaving measure we cannot afford to ignore.

Kimberly Williams, Baltimore

The writer is manager of advocacy and communications for the American Lung Association in Maryland.

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