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Wednesday
Mar212012

The Cigarette Smokescreen 

In a piece for the Hoover Institution’s journal, Defining Ideas, Dr. Henry I. Miller and I argue that The Food and Drug Administration is passing up a historic opportunity to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco.

Tobacco is different from other products the agency has had to regulate (yet still keep legal). We write,

The agency’s oversight of tobacco is fundamentally different from any other product it regulates simply because tobacco is an inherently, irredeemably dangerous product. Unlike drugs, it isn’t beneficial in any way; and unlike food, it isn’t a necessity.

So it is especially important that the regulators understand the complexities and the science of the matter. One point that activists and the regulators they influence rarely want to admit:

All tobacco products are not created equal. Cigarettes are by far the deadliest of them all, but other forms of tobacco, particularly smokeless products such as Swedish-style snus or newer dissolvable products, although not entirely safe, are far less harmful. Studies in Sweden have shown that such products can be used by smokers to reduce their tobacco-related risk.

In fact, The FDA recently said, through it’s tobacco Twitter feed, that smokeless tobacco is just as harmful as cigarettes. (False!) Moments later, they deleted the tweet and instead wrote that smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking. (True, but misleading without context). That context? Smokeless tobacco is a whole lot less harmful, by far, than smoking. Switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco would cause a huge improvement in a smoker’s health. It is the best option for those who have tried to quit tobacco use and failed using government-endorsed methods.

So I asked the FDA why it deleted the tweet about smokeless tobacco being just as harmful as cigarettes. I wanted the agency to go on record stating explicitly that smokeless tobacco is not as harmful as smoking. FDA’s response? I’m still waiting.

In the meantime, please take a look at “The Cigarette Smokescreen” over at the Hoover Institution’s webpage.

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