Program Urges Smokers Switch to Smokeless Tobacco

By MICHAEL FELBERBAUM | October 28, 2011 | 2:30 PM EDT

In this Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011 photo, a billboard by stands along New Hartford Road in Owensboro, Ky. Dr. Brad Rodu, the director of the organization, and professor and researcher at the University of Louisville, is heading a new campaign for smokers to use smokeless tobacco in order to quit smoking, based on 20 years of research. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

A Kentucky cancer center is offering some unconventional advice to get smokers to kick the habit: Switch to smoke-free tobacco.

The James Graham Brown Cancer Center is aiming its "Switch and Quit" campaign at the smoker-heavy city of Owensboro, Ky. Health professionals there say smokers who switch to smokeless tobacco greatly reduce their risk of disease, and are more likely to stay off cigarettes than those who use nicotine patches.

Many other health officials are wary of trading one cancer-causing habit for another, and say more research is needed to determine whether smokers would be better off switching.

The University of Louisville researcher directing the program receives grants from tobacco companies, but says his work is independent and the university's rules protect against interference.