The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids yesterday blasted R.J. Reynolds for making a claim that a product which greatly reduces levels of a large number of tobacco smoke constituents will reduce health risks.
The Campaign accused R.J. Reynolds of false and deceptive advertising in marketing its Eclipse cigarette as one that might reduce health risks, such as cancer and chronic lung disease. Eclipse is a cigarette that heats, but does not burn tobacco, and which therefore has substantially lower levels of a number of carcinogenic and toxic smoke constituents.
According to the Campaign's statement: "RJR's unsubstantiated claims that Eclipse cigarettes 'may present less risk of cancer' and other serious diseases is just another example of how the cigarette companies have continued to make misleading statements about the health risks of their products. ... as study after study has found, there is no scientific basis for concluding that Eclipse cigarettes or any of the other so-called reduced risk products that have been marketed by R.J. Reynolds or the other tobacco companies have actually reduced the risk of tobacco related disease."
The Rest of the Story
This is an important story, because it documents that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is admitting that reducing, even by a substantial amount, a large number of carcinogenic and toxic constituents in tobacco smoke does not provide any substantiation that a tobacco product will be any safer.
If this is true, then there is also no substantiation that the performance standards in the FDA tobacco legislation that the Campaign is pushing would make cigarettes any safer, as the Campaign claims. After all, the performance standards would allow FDA to reduce or eliminate a number of the more than 40 carcinogens and more than 4,000 toxins in tobacco smoke. But that is precisely what R.J. Reynolds has done with its Eclipse cigarette!
For example, Eclipse produces mainstream smoke levels of the following chemicals that are between 80% and 95% lower than conventional cigarettes: isoprene, acetone, hydrogen cyanide, toluene, 1,3-butadiene, benzene, acrylonitrile, quinoline, NAT, NNN, catechol, hydroquinone, phenol, benzo(a)pyrene, and 2-aminonaphthalene.
I am not claiming that the Campaign is wrong in its assessment that reducing a large number of tobacco smoke constituents by a great amount does not provide any reason to conclude that a cigarette will be safer, as anyone who has read my previous post on this issue will recognize. But I am arguing that if the Campaign applies this correct reasoning to R.J. Reynolds' claims, then it should also apply the same reasoning to its own claims.
The Campaign, in fact, claims that the FDA legislation (through its performance standards) would "require changes in tobacco products to make them less harmful." This implies that eliminating or reducing the levels of certain tobacco smoke constituents will make cigarettes less harmful, since that is exactly what the performance standards are.
Until and unless the Campaign can provide some evidence that reducing the levels of certain tobacco smoke constituents will reduce human health risks, then it should cease and desist from making what amount to unsubstantiated health claims of its own. Is is not hypocritical for the Campaign to condemn R.J. Reynolds for making unsubstantiated health claims based on an assumption that huge reductions in tobacco smoke constituents will produce a safer product, but to use that very same reasoning to support legislation that it wants to see passed?
The rest of the story reveals that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids - an organization which is relentlessly criticizing the tobacco companies for making misleading claims - is itself making an unsubstantiated claim -- and that claim is based on the same flawed reasoning that R.J. Reynolds is using to argue that its Eclipse cigarettes will reduce health risks. And now, the Campaign has itself admitted that this very reasoning is scientifically inappropriate.
R.J. Reynolds should certainly be held responsible for its misleading health claims, but so should the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-smoking organization which, by its own admission, agrees that substantially reducing the levels of large numbers of tobacco smoke constituents does not imply any degree of reduced health risk.