New tobacco product sparks controversy as market trial winds down
Marc Bence/for metro edmonton
Edmonton smokers are a curious bunch, but have shown little interest in switching to a new form of smoke-free tobacco launched in the city that’s being touted as less harmful to your health, according to local retailers.
The trend has continued despite an advertising campaign launched this week as part of Imperial Tobacco’s city-wide market study on snus, a tobacco product from Sweden packaged in tea-bag pouches that are tucked between the lip and the gum.
Final figures from the more than 200 local retailers included in the company’s sole Canadian study will be finalized by the end of the year, but initial responses haven’t been overly positive.
"Curiosity definitely spurned an initial spike in sales, but since then sales have slowed down quite a bit," said Steve Tsang of Hub Cigar and Newsstand. "People have basically tried it and found it wasn’t for them."
That kind of response is disappointing since the product is 99 per cent less harmful than using cigarettes, said Carl Phillips, a University of Alberta researcher who studies smokeless tobacco.
"We’ve found that switching to smokeless tobacco is almost as good as quitting, in terms of the health impacts," he said.
While his research came under fire recently because it’s partially funded by a $1.5-million US grant from the tobacco industry, he maintains that he’s impartial and the research provides proof that there are acceptable alternatives to smoking instead of quitting.
"Instead of taking a harm reduction approach, educators have insisted on an abstinence-only approach to nicotine use for reasons that can’t be justified on health grounds," he said.
Joey Rathwell, a spokeswoman for Health Canada, said there’s no such thing as a safe level of tobacco usage. "Snus is not a safe alternative to cigarettes," she said. "They are addictive and can cause serious health hazards."