Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Memo to Feds: Tobacco ≠ Smoking



Government officials almost always use the word “tobacco” when they are actually discussing “cigarettes” or “smoking”.        

This practice is apparent in a 2015 progress report from the Centers for Disease Control’s “Winnable Battles” campaign (here).  In the body of the document, the agency states that “smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke are responsible for more than 480,000 premature deaths annually, as well as at least $289 billion in health care expenses and other economic costs each year.” But, as shown in the image from the report, it’s headline and list of key strategies substitutes the catch-all term “tobacco” for “cigarettes” and “smoking” seven times.

The obvious purpose of this conflation of terms is furtherance of the government’s decades-long drive for tobacco prohibition (here). 

Eradication of all tobacco products could only be justified if all such products posed substantial risk to public health.  They do not.  Decades of scientific studies document that use of smokeless tobacco products is vastly safer than smoking (here, here and here).  Even strident tobacco control groups like the Truth Initiative acknowledge the difference (here).     

Maintaining that tobacco, cigarettes and smoking are synonymous is indefensible.



2 comments:

Bill Godshall said...

Two decades ago, the first sentence of virtually all DHHS publications on cigarette smoking stated that "cigarette smoking" is the nation's leading cause of preventable disease and death.

About a decade ago, the first sentence of DHHS publications on smokeless tobacco or cigars began stating that "tobacco use" is the nation's leading cause of preventable disease and death.

Since Obama became president in 2009, the first sentence of virtually all DHHS publications on cigarette smoking state that "tobacco use" is the nation's leading cause of preventable disease and death.

And since 2012, most DHHS publications on e-cigarettes state that
"tobacco use" is the leading cause of preventable disease and death, that all e-cigarettes (even those not containing nicotine) are "tobacco products", and that all e-cig users are "tobacco users".

Brad Rodu said...

Federal health officials aren’t the only ones intentionally conflating smoking with the use of smoke-free tobacco products. American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer offered this classic mashup in the New York Times (here): “Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in our country, and there is real concern that if e-cigarettes delay or prevent smoking cessation, the overall burden on health caused by tobacco will remain unacceptably high.” (my emphasis). Completely false.