R.J. Reynolds, which last year voluntarily stopped buying magazine ads for its cigarette brands, has begun advertising Camel Snus, an American version of Swedish-style oral snuff, in magazines such as Maxim, Rolling Stone, and Sports Illustrated. "None of us would say the risk of snus products is the same as smoked products," Johns Hopkins pharmacologist Jack Henningfield tells The New York Times, "because it's not." That depends on which "us" Henningfield has in mind. Anti-smoking activists and public health officials have a dishonorable history of deliberately obscuring the huge differences in risk between cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. "If [smokers] switched 100 percent from cigarettes," Henningfield concedes, "there is likely a harm reduction." Since the health risks associated with snus are tiny compared to the hazards of cigarettes, that's a pretty grudging understatement.
Henningfield worries that the way R.J. Reynolds is marketing its snus packets—as a means for smokers to enjoy tobacco in situations where they're not allowed to light up—could be "harm increasing if people delay quitting because of them." Harvard public health professor Gregory Connolly likewise complains that "Camel clearly is not marketing snus as a replacement product; it's a complementary product." They do not acknowledge, and the Times fails to note, that the new law authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products prohibits R.J. Reynolds and other companies from marketing snus as a safer alternative to cigarettes. That's one of the provisions R.J. Reynolds has challenged in its First Amendment lawsuit. It also seeks to overturn a ban on the use of pictures, color, or logos in publications seen by substantial numbers of minors (more than 2 million or more than 15 percent of readers). That rule, which has not taken effect yet, would bar even the current snus ads.
More on smokeless tobacco here.