Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Federal Agencies Continue To Disrespect Smokeless Tobacco Users

Last week I presented my correspondence with the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which resulted in a retraction of CDC’s use of the pejorative term “spit tobacco” in a formal report (read it here).

This week I am very disappointed to report that the FDA uses the demeaning term on a web page (here) that was last updated on July 8.

Although the offending page is supposed to present information about warning labels, it launches into an unnecessary and unsubstantiated attack on smokeless tobacco and, of course, its users:

“Smokeless tobacco is still tobacco. It is addictive and causes cancer. Quit today. For help, visit ‘Spit Tobacco: A Guide for Quitting’ or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.”

It is unacceptable and irresponsible for the FDA to use such language to describe the product it is supposed to regulate in a balanced, fair and scientific manner. But it gets worse. The Spit Tobacco Quitting Guide is an embedded link to a document on the website of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (here). The document exposes smokeless users to even more abuse:

“If the health effects don’t worry you, think of how other people see your addiction. The smell of spit tobacco in your mouth is not pleasant. While you may have become used to the odor and don’t mind it, others around you notice. Check out your clothes. Do you have tobacco juice stains on your clothes, your furniture, or on your car’s upholstery? Your tobacco spit and drool could be making a mess. Look at your teeth. Are they stained from tobacco juice? Brushing your teeth won’t make this go away.”

This is appalling language, and it is disgraceful that two federal agencies have officially adopted and endorsed it.

Three years ago, the director of the Centers for Disease Control rejected the use of the biased and pejorative term “spit tobacco.” Unfortunately, the practice persists today at two other federal agencies. I have written to Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, and to Dr. Lawrence Tabak, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, asking them to remove these offensive website items and order professionals in their agencies to stop using this term in all official matters.

Users of smokeless products may want to call, write or email Drs. Deyton and Tabak, asking them to remove “spit tobacco” from their agencies’ vocabulary. Here is their contact information:

Dr. Deyton: 1-877-287-1373 (toll-free)

Dr. Tabak: 1-301-496-3571

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