Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Is There Such Thing as a "Safer" Cigarette? Tobacco Regulation and the FDA -- The Bicknell Lecture at Boston University School of Public Health

Is there such thing as a "safer" cigarette? What are the public health implications of the FDA's new regulatory authority over tobacco products? Should electronic cigarettes be banned or promoted?

These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed at the 2009 William J. Bicknell Lectureship in Public Health to be held at Boston University School of Public Health. The event will be held on Friday, Oct. 23, from 9 a.m. to noon, in the first-floor auditorium of 670 Albany Street, on the Boston University Medical Campus. A continental breakfast will be available from 8:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

I want to extend a special invitation to Rest of the Story readers, especially those in the Boston area, to attend this event.

The keynote speaker of the event will be Dr. Gregory Connolly, Professor of the Practice of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Connolly is a world-renowned expert on the control of tobacco products - including both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco - and was awarded the Surgeon General's Medallion by Dr. C. Everett Koop for his work in passing the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act. Before coming to Harvard, he served for many years as the director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, during a time in which the Commonwealth experienced a precipitous drop in cigarette consumption, both among adults and youths.

Dr. Connolly has conducted extensive research in the area of cigarette product design and his current research is very relevant to the issues facing the FDA in regulating cigarettes. His current work, for example, examines ways in which cigarette companies may circumvent the law's ban on "light" cigarettes and cigarette company techniques for increasing the addictive potential of their products. It will be very interesting to hear Dr. Connolly's views on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and whether or not there are specific ways in which he believes the implementation of this law could result in an improvement in the public's health.

Dr. Connolly's talk will be followed by reactions from three panelists.

Patrick Basham is the founding director of the Democracy Institute. He has conducted extensive research into the origins of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, resulting in a book published recently, entitled "Butt Out! How Philip Morris Burned Ted Kennedy, the FDA & the Anti-Tobacco Movement." In this book, Basham provides a detailed, extensive, and well-documented treatment of the origins of the FDA tobacco legislation. He describes, in no uncertain terms, how that legislation was the result of an unholy alliance between the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Philip Morris. For a detailed review of his book, see my previous blog post.

Dr. Cheryl Healton is the founding president and chief executive officer of the American Legacy Foundation. While the Foundation did not take any official position on the legislation that led to FDA regulation of cigarettes, it will be interesting to hear the Foundation's view of how that legislation should be implemented and how that implementation will, or will not, protect the public's health.

I will be the third panelist. As my readers know, I have been very critical of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act from the onset. I view it as a public scam, in which the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids was suckered by Philip Morris into supporting legislation which will end up causing devastating effects on the public's health and undermining the very nature of federal public health protection in the nation. Nevertheless, I am coming in with an open mind and will be excited for the opportunity to consider and respond to the ideas presented by Dr. Connolly and the other panelists.

Following a brief break, the speaker and panelists will take questions from the audience and engage in discussion about the topics covered. Needless to say, it should be a fascinating symposium.

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