The conventional wisdom, perpetuated not only by cigarette companies but by otherwise reliable sources, including the U.S. Surgeon General, includes the fallacy that all tobacco products are equally harmful to public health. That is, smokeless tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, and pipe tobacco are, from a public health perspective, the same thing. Scientific studies have proven that they are not, and a rapidly-growing body of evidence confirms that they are not. Any effort to regulate tobacco products must explicitly acknowledge the differences in health risks between types of tobacco.
ACSH* recently reported on a study to gauge the efficacy of a program that encourages smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco products as an alternative both to smoking (which they know is harmful to them) and complete tobacco abstinence (which they have found extremely difficult). The results of the study are extremely positive. The program works. It works so well, in fact, that Sweden now has the lowest smoking-related mortality rates in the world. ... Smokeless tobacco is demonstrably less harmful than cigarettes, while making it much easier for some smokers to quit cigarettes.
*The mission of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is to promote sound science and to inform policy debates about public health, providing independent scientific evidence and analysis to clarify the scientific record in order to educate the public and assist policy-making.
Other ACSH resources on tobacco-related issues:
The Unintended Consequences of Tobacco Laws (HuffingtonPost.com)
Warning: Overstating the Case Against Secondhand Smoke is Unnecessary—and Harmful to Public Health Policy
Tobacco Harm Reduction: An Alternative Cessation Strategy for Inveterate Smokers (Harm Reduction Journal)