Harvard Health Letter

In Brief: You don't smoke it, but it's still tobacco

In Brief

You don't smoke it, but it's still tobacco

Doctors are told to "first, do no harm." But in public health, the dictum might be changed to "first, do less harm." The goal is often to come up with alternatives to lessen the chance of harm occurring, rather than avoiding it altogether.

The designated driver campaign for drinkers is one example of a harm-reduction program: Drinking to excess is risky behavior, but having someone sober behind the wheel at least takes drunk driving out of the picture. Needle-exchange programs to prevent the spread of HIV are another example.

Now there's some discussion about whether smokeless tobacco might take some of the harm out of the cigarette scourge that causes so much illness and premature death.

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