Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Canadian Council for Tobacco Control Calls for Disclosure of Cigarette Constituents; And Exactly How Will This Protect The Public's Health?

The Canadian Council for Tobacco Control (CCTC) has called for the tobacco industry to be required to disclose all cigarette ingredients and additives along with the constituents of cigarette smoke, according to a press release issued by the organization yesterday.

According to the press release: "A cigarette (filter, paper and tobacco) is reported to contain over 500 ingredients. Once lit, it generates more than 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which are known carcinogens. In Canada, tobacco companies are required to report ingredients to the federal Health Minister, but consumers will not find these ingredients listed on any cigarette package or cigarette manufacturer's website."

"The CCTC believes 'It is time to examine this issue and demand that governments treat the tobacco industry as they do other industries. There is no other consumer product that when used as directed would kill 50% of its consumers. Insisting on similar regulations to the pharmaceutical industry (where full disclosure of product ingredients and possible side effects is mandated) may seem like a good start, but following the lead of the chemical sector might be better' said CCTC Executive Director Bob Walsh. 'With over 4,000 chemicals generated by a lit cigarette, one has to wonder why there is not a greater reporting and consumer disclosure mechanism imposed on such a product. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the tobacco industry provide a Material Safety Data Sheet (an MSDS) for tobacco products as the chemical industry does with other harmful products" he added.'" ...

"the pharmaceutical industry is required to provide detailed information regarding side effects of the drugs it markets. A cigarette (be it a traditional cigarette, cigar, cigarillo or an e-cigarette) is also a nicotine delivery system, but one that is never tested for safety. 'It's time to level the playing field and impose on the tobacco industry the same level of accountability and regulation as other industries must face to ensure the protection of Canadians,' said Walsh."

The Rest of the Story

Perhaps I should be gratified to find out that the tobacco control movement in Canada is as misguided as it is here in the United States. What kind of mishegas is this? The disclosure of the more than 8,000 known constituents in cigarette smoke will do nothing to prevent tobacco-related disease. Moreover, it will add no new information, as the names of these chemicals have already been published and that has had no apparent effect on cigarette smoking.

The public already understands that cigarettes are dangerous; providing a list of chemical names is not going to make it easier for smokers to quit, nor is it going to prevent youth from starting to smoke.

It makes absolutely no contribution to the public's health to require the cigarette companies to disclose the components of cigarettes. Consumers will not be informed about the exact constituents in the smoke they are inhaling anyway. In fact, they will not be aware of most of the components in the smoke. Most of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are unknown. They have not yet been identified. There will remain as many as 96,000 or so chemicals in cigarette smoke about which Canadian smokers are not informed. The cigarette companies do not even know most of the constituents in tobacco smoke.

But more importantly, what possible use is it for consumers to have this information? Frankly, the information is already available. Anyone interested can just read Dr. Rodgman's and Dr. Perfetti's excellent book. The known components are beautifully and exquisitely cataloged.

But what difference does this make? How does it change anything? How does it contribute in any way to the protection of the public's health? The whole idea makes no sense.

Disturbingly, the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control argues that requiring the disclosure of cigarette ingredients will "ensure the protection of Canadians." I have news for the CCTC. The disclosure of the ingredients will not protect Canadians. All that will do is inform them about the specific chemicals that are killing them. What would protect Canadians is to decrease the rate of smoking, either by encouraging smokers to quit, preventing youth from starting to smoke, or both.

Moreover, the CCTC laments the fact that cigarettes in Canada are not tested for safety. What the heck does that mean? How can you test a product that kills thousands of people each year for safety? Haven't those tests already been conducted? Is there any doubt that cigarettes are unsafe? On what planet has the CCTC been living for the past six decades to think that cigarettes need to be tested for safety?

Apparently, in Canada as well as the United States, there is more concern about regulating tobacco products than actually doing something meaningful to prevent deaths from these products. Tobacco control groups in both countries are proposing strategies that are based on regulation for regulation's sake. In other words, these proposed policies regulate the industry without any positive impact on the public's health.

On the contrary, the discourse by these anti-smoking groups is going to have a negative impact on the public's health because it sets us back decades in terms of promoting the public's appreciation of the severe hazards of cigarette smoking. Now, people are being led to believe that cigarettes need to be tested for safety. Apparently, they may not be as bad as we think, so we need to examine the ingredients to find out.

The very idea of regulating the safety of tobacco products in the first place undermines the public's appreciation of the hazards of the product. After all, if the government regulates the safety of the product, the public is going to be led to believe that it isn't as bad as previously thought.

It's unfortunate that the United States anti-smoking groups' insane approach to the regulation of tobacco products has now been exported to Canada.

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