Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“Deception or Evasion” by FDA CTP & National Cancer Institute Regarding Smokeless Tobacco?

“A majority of adults do not think smokeless tobacco is less harmful than cigarettes,” according to a study by the FDA Center for Tobacco Products and the Tobacco Control Research Branch of National Cancer Institute (abstract here). 

Sheri P. Feirman and colleagues analyzed responses to a question in the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), 2012, 2014, and 2015: “Do you believe that some smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco and snuff, are less harmful than cigarettes?” 

Do You Believe that Some Smokeless Tobacco Products…Are Less Harmful Than Cigarettes?
Don’t Know17.1%15.9%22.2%

Simply put, only 9 to 12% of Americans correctly believe that smokeless tobacco is less harmful than cigarettes.

In a PubMed Commons commentary on this study, David Sweanor and I note:

“The article failed to specify that the correct answer [to the question] is:  ‘Yes, smokeless tobacco products are less harmful than cigarettes.’  The article instead focuses on the majority of participants who inaccurately answered ‘No’ or ‘Don’t Know,’ which demonstrates the misperception fostered by an effective ‘quarantine’ of truthful risk information by federal agencies (Kozlowski and Sweanor, 2016).

“Decades of epidemiologic studies have documented that the health risks of smokeless tobacco use are, at most, 2% those of smoking (Rodu and Godshall, 2006; Rodu, 2011; Fisher 2017; Royal College of Physicians, 2002; Lee and Hamling, 2009).  Unlike cigarettes, smokeless tobacco does not cause lung cancer, heart and circulatory diseases or emphysema.  The Royal College of Physicians concluded in 2002: ‘As a way of using nicotine, the consumption of non-combustible [smokeless] tobacco is on the order of 10–1,000 times less hazardous than smoking, depending on the product.’” (Royal College of Physicians, 2002)

”Low risks from smokeless tobacco use extend to mouth cancer.  A 2002 review documented that men in the U.S. who use moist snuff and chewing tobacco have minimal to no risk for mouth cancer (Rodu and Cole, 2002), and a recent federal study found no excess deaths from the disease among American men who use moist snuff or chewing tobacco (Wyss, 2016).

“As one of us recently wrote, ‘Deception or evasion about major differences in product risks is not supported by public health ethics, health communication or consumer practices.  Public health agencies have an obligation to correct the current dramatic level of consumer misinformation on relative risks that they have fostered.’ (Kozlowski and Sweanor, 2018).”

The FDA and NCI must be more forthcoming with the American public.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mythic Tobacco Endgames

A new $1.2 million campaign to promote tobacco prohibition on college campuses was announced on September 19 (here). 

As I have noted, the federal government annually spends hundreds of millions of dollars in support of academic anti-tobacco research (here).  This time, the money is coming from pharmacy giant CVS’s Health Foundation as part of a five-year, $50 million campaign.  CVS collaborators include the misnamed Truth Initiative (see here and here) and the American Cancer Society, whose numerous prohibitionist exploits are reported in this blog (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

Campaign awards to several Texas schools were reported in a Houston Chronicle article (here) that included illustrations offering and refuting four tobacco “myths”.  In this effort, the paper (or the campaign) repeated fantastical claims that are often made by prohibitionists.

Myth #1: “Almost no one smokes any more [sic].”  A myth, by definition, is a widely held view, so this attempt fails from the start. The latest data from the CDC, for 2016, shows 38 million smokers in the United States – a substantial and highly visible group of people, all in need of effective quit-smoking tools and support.

Myth #2: “e-Cigarettes, hookahs and cigars are safe alternatives.”  Again, few people hold this view (here).  Scientists, the industry and public health officials agree that no form of tobacco use is perfectly “safe.”  Eminent authorities like Britain’s Royal College of Physicians, however, have pronounced that vaping “is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.” (here)  Furthermore, FDA data shows that smoking one or two cigars a day have almost no health risks (here and here).

Myth #3: “Infrequent, social smoking is harmless.”  This is creating a myth when one doesn’t exist.

Myth #4: “Smoking outside eliminates secondhand smoke dangers.”  Myths convey false information.  This statement is entirely true.

Ironically, some viewers of the online Chronicle article are shown an advertisement for Nicorette gum, reproduced here.  While pharmaceutical nicotine has a known 93% quit-smoking failure rate (here), this ad touts one day of success – an extraordinarily low bar for cessation.