Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Misinformation from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Massachusetts Dental Society

The list of prestigious medical organizations that exaggerate and distort the risks of smokeless tobacco is growing longer. On May 12, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, “a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and… among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States,” and the Massachusetts Dental Society, “a 5,000-member professional association… dedicated to improving the oral health of the public in the Commonwealth,” released demonstrably false information about smokeless tobacco risks (article here).

The Dana-Farber article says that these organizations “are partnering to spread the word that chewing tobacco, otherwise known as spit, dip, chew, or smokeless tobacco, is not a safe alternative to smoking.” Using an “absolutely safe” straw-man standard is now standard fare among smokeless prohibitionists.

The most egregious misinformation comes from Dr. David P. Lustbader, an oral surgeon: “Chewing tobacco is the most dangerous form of tobacco because it comes in contact directly with the oral mucosa.” Dr. Lustbader ignores the reams of medical literature irrefutably identifying cigarettes as “the most dangerous” of tobacco products.

Dana-Farber’s Dr. Marshall R. Posner does no better, saying, “Nicotine and the other tars in chewing tobacco change the cells throughout the mouth and tongue and lead to cancer.” First, nicotine does not “lead to cancer.” Second, nicotine is not a “tar.” Third, there are no “tars” in chewing tobacco. What was he smoking?

I emailed the director and associate director of media relations at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, detailing the misinformation in the press release and requesting a correction. No response or correction was forthcoming.

Dana-Farber (here) claims to “pursue excellence relentlessly and with integrity in all that we do, adhering always to the highest standards of conduct,” and the Massachusetts Dental Society is dedicated to “promotion of the highest professional standards.” These values are betrayed by the pernicious pronouncements about smokeless tobacco by their purported experts.

1 comment:

Carl V Phillips said...

Good catch. I guess there is really no relenting in the lies. This was up in time to be covered in our weekly suggested reading list at the THR blog:

Harvard Med School affiliate and Massachusetts dentists join those distributing some of the dumbest anti-THR claims
Reported by Brad Rodu, the lack of shame about dooming smokers is surpassed only by the lack of shame about being willing to spout pseudo-scientific nonsense.