Government ought to rely on unbiased scientific findings when making policy decisions regarding important issues. But unfortunately, many government agencies undermine the scientific process by using it for their own purposes rather than to discover the truth, a reality President Dwight Eisenhower pointed out in his farewell address more than a half-century ago. The situation has only become worse since then, with government funding of tobacco studies providing a vivid example.
For decades, lawmakers and regulators in the United States have attempted to reduce smoking rates using taxes, smoking bans, and regulations. Despite these heavy-handed policies, the decline in smoking has leveled off over the past few years. Electronic cigarettes, meanwhile, have quickly become one of the most popular nicotine replacement products, with the total market expected to reach $1.7 billion in 2015.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we join the Managing Editor of Budget & Tax News, Jesse Hathaway as he speaks with Dr. Brad Rodu. Rodu is a Senior Fellow for The Heartland Institute as well as a researcher for the University of Louisville. Rodu and Hathaway discuss the FDA’s missing data regarding tobacco harm reductions.
Research by the National Conference of State Legislatures suggests that with fewer Americans today smoking traditional cigarettes, a revenue stream that states have depended upon is rapidly decreasing.
While the war over the use and taxation of electronic cigarettes wages, Dutch company E-njoint has started selling a new marijuana-flavored “e-joint” that will almost certainly lead to controversial legal[…]
It’s almost baseball season, which means it’s time for anti-tobacco extremists to start grabbing easy headlines. One especially zealous state lawmaker wants to ban smokeless tobacco by players and fans in all California ballparks (here). It’s all based on smoke and mirrors, as illustrated in a woefully inaccurate recent BBC story on smokeless tobacco and baseball.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center researchers, led by first-author Sarah Borderud, claimed on September 22, 2014, that e-cigarettes did not help cancer patients quit smoking (media story here). They based that statement on a study they published online in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society (abstract here).
The association of tobacco use and body weight has long been a matter of concern. In 2004, I collaborated with Swedish investigators to publish the first research on whether switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco blunts some of the weight gain normally seen with quitting via abstinence (abstract here, blog post here).
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As a pathologist working at two large medical centers, I have studied the effects of smoking on health for over 20 years. I’ve published scores of papers on the impressive benefits of switching from cigarettes to safer, non-combustible forms of tobacco (such as Swedish snus). This strategy – called tobacco harm reduction – has vast potential for improving public health.
The contrast between the spin put on youth e-cigarette use data last Fall and the story told by the actual data, released last month, is startling but not surprising, given the U.S. government’s over-zealous tobacco prohibition posture.
Publishing a study of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in American smokeless tobacco products (abstracthere), Dorothy Hatsukami and colleagues at the University of Minnesota called for the FDA to issue “regulations…to reduce levels of…NNK and NNN in smokeless tobacco products to the lowest levels possible.” The authors make illogical and unscientific claims in their article and media interviews (here).
The New England Journal of Medicine yesterday published a letter claiming that vapor contains “hidden” formaldehyde at far higher levels than cigarettes (here), which made headlines worldwide. That conflicts with a report I discussed last week, documenting that formaldehyde levels in e-cigarettes were far lower than those in traditional cigarettes (here).
The Michigan Legislature got it right last year, passing bills to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Only a handful of states haven’t gotten around to this sensible, limited form of e-cigarette regulations.
Under pressure from activist groups who oppose this approach, Gov. Rick Snyder hasn’t signed the bill, and may veto or pocket veto it in the next week.
Researcher Naoki Kunugita at Japan’s National Institute of Public Health recently fueled anti-e-cig hysteria with this unverifiable claim: “In one brand of e-cigarette the team found more than 10 times the level of carcinogens contained in one regular cigarette.”
Recently I attended a forum on e-cigarettes, sponsored by a political organization that wanted to educate its attendees about the devices. During the discussion my opponent [from the prohibitionist American Legacy Foundation] repeated the baseless claim that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.
The New York Times has added more fuel to the anti-tobacco-harm-reduction fire with a December 4 editorial (here) rehashing the somewhat slanted reporting that appeared in the paper’s news pages on November 30. In two stories that day, the Times explored issues surrounding Swedish Match’s FDA application to change the warnings on its snus products. As I noted (here), “The Times and their quoted experts did a major disservice to their audience; they failed to report the simple truth, that mouth cancer risk for Swedish snus is next to nil.”