I have been educating tobacco users for 25 years about the differential in risks associated with combustible and smoke-free tobacco products. I have published dozens of studies in medical and scientific journals (here), authored newspaper op-eds, been quoted in many news stories, penned over 500 blog posts and provided countless radio interviews.
In the face of this fact-driven effort, tobacco prohibitionists in the medical establishment and government have mounted a campaign of exaggerated and even fabricated claims against effective harm reduction tools, including smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products. Occasionally, they have subjected me to ad hominem attacks. With these measures, prohibitionists have dissuaded massive numbers of smokers from acting to reduce their risk and lengthen their lives. Over these 25 years, 10 million smokers have suffered premature, and for many, preventable early deaths.
Of late, vapers have become organized and vocal in challenging these unscientific, unprofessional, and even unethical attacks on tobacco harm reduction, but traditional tobacco users, like smokers, dippers and chewers, have been slower to respond.
One notable exception has been the extremely impactful work of two internet stars. Darcy Compton joined with two friends in 2005 “to create a product that would fill a need of every smokeless tobacco user in America. From the humble beginnings of three guys assembling spittoons by hand out of a residential garage, to a full-fledged manufacturing plant based in Southern California, Mud Jug epitomizes the American dream of hard work, honesty, quality and value. Every Mud Jug [portable spittoon] has been, and will continue to be 100% made in the United States of America.” (here)
Darcy is more than a founder and president of Mudjug (here); he’s the star of the wildly popular Mudjug YouTube Series that boasts nearly 200,000 subscribers (here).
In 2012, Darcy published a video review of my book, For Smokers Only (here), which has since drawn over 300,000 views.
Upon learning of the video in 2014, I contacted Darcy and accepted his invitation to record an interview with him, which is available here. That chat, which has 211,000 views, demonstrates the educational power of social media.
Darcy subsequently introduced me to Jared, aka “Outlaw Dipper,” who recently conducted his own interview with me (here). Five weeks later, that video has 138,000 views and 1,000 comments.
The FDA insists that the central message of its smokeless tobacco education campaign is “smokeless doesn’t mean harmless,” (here), but the campaign itself is harmful to public health. The agency claims to “educate rural, male teenagers about risks of dipping,” but it engages in exaggeration, distortion, and even fabrication of minimal or nonexistent risks. It willfully misleads smokers and dippers, putting their lives in jeopardy.
In contrast, the videos from Darcy and Jared are educating hundreds of thousands about the simple, scientific tobacco truth that smoke-free is vastly safer. Thousands of posted comments prove what surveys have shown (here): that most Americans remain unaware of the differential risks of smoking and dipping. Darcy’s and Jared’s viewers aren’t just being entertained; many have subsequently switched from cigarettes to smokeless.
Darcy and Jared will never get public health awards for their videos, but they have performed a public health service of incalculable value.