States Crack Down on Smokeless Tobacco

About one in five Americans smokes. And that’s not likely to change much, say public-health experts, until cigarette-style taxes, bans, and crossbones are applied to a related scourge: smokeless tobacco. The unlit leaf of many names—chaw, chew, dip, snuff, snus—is a growing problem, especially among male smokers and young people who use it as a cheap and convenient substitute for cigarettes.

Now local authorities are closing the regulatory gap. Since 2009, seven states have raised taxes on smokeless tobacco, often doubling and tripling their rates, according to an analysis for NEWSWEEK by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. And the number of states with comparably high cigarette and smokeless taxes has quadrupled to eight. Earlier this year in New York City, meanwhile, a federal judge upheld a first-of-its-kind ban on most flavored smokeless tobacco.

Wyoming, the chew capital of America, has struck the most visible blow. In August, at the state’s largest rodeo (the “Daddy of ’Em All”), the Department of Health replaced U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. as the sponsor. In place of scantily clad Skoal and Copenhagen girls bearing free samples, officials handed out anti-chew brochures.

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