Friday, March 08, 2013

FDA Spouting Old Tobacco Industry Propaganda; Agency is Going Further in the Deception than Even the Tobacco Companies Went

For years, the tobacco companies tried to convince their customers that rather significant changes in their products - such as removing the additives or heating, rather than burning the tobacco - would result in a safer cigarette. In response, the anti-smoking groups attacked the cigarette companies, accusing of defrauding the American people. Eventually, these actions on the part of the industry were used by the federal government as evidence in a RICO case against the companies.

For example, in response to R.J. Reynolds' contention that Winston cigarettes were less hazardous because they contained no additives, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids wrote: "RJR’s new ad campaign for its Winston brand takes an absurd and deceptive approach, implying that erits new additive-free cigarettes are healthier and somehow better for consumers."

And in response to the introduction of Philip Morris' Accord cigarettes, which involved heating rather than burning of tobacco, anti-smoking groups accused the company of deceiving the public by even suggesting that the product might be safer than traditional cigarettes. This despite clear evidence that levels of carcinogens in the emissions from Accord were drastically reduced.

Now, as Jacob Grier reported earlier this week in The Atlantic, the FDA is defending its failure to approve any of the more than 3500 substantial equivalence applications pending over the past 3 years by arguing that even minute changes to a cigarette's additives or design can make a cigarette significantly safer.

According to the article, the FDA defended its failure to approve any of the 3500 applications by arguing that "minor differences in composition or design could make cigarettes significantly more dangerous or addictive."

The Rest of the Story

Not only is the FDA spouting old tobacco industry propaganda for which the anti-smoking groups and federal government attacked the companies, but it is taking that deception of the American public to an even higher level. While the cigarette companies merely suggested that major changes in their products could make a cigarette safer, the FDA is stating that miniscule changes in a cigarette can make it safer than others on the market.

The ultimate irony here is that if the cigarette companies made precisely the same claim as the FDA, the agency and anti-smoking groups would be blasting the companies and probably would be preparing a lawsuit against them for racketeering and fraud.

Not only is this propaganda deceptive but it is damaging to the public's appreciation of the hazards of cigarettes. Moreover, it contradicts and undermines the FDA's own statement that: "To date, no tobacco products have been scientifically proven to reduce risk of tobacco-related disease, or cause less harm than other tobacco products."

So here, on its web site, the FDA is going so far as asserting that even different classes of tobacco products - such as cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and dissolvable tobacco - confer exactly the same risk. How can the FDA argue, on the one hand, that different classes of tobacco products confer no differences in health risk but at the same time, argue that even miniscule differences in cigarettes have major implications for health risk?

The answer is simple: the Center for Tobacco Products is not operating as a science-based agency. So far, it is operating on politics, rather than science.

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