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Experts in Government, Public Health, Public Policy and Science Outline Blueprint for Reducing Death and Disease From Tobacco

To further the goal of eliminating smoking as the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., twenty six of the nation's leading tobacco control researchers and policy experts today called for regulatory control of all tobacco products. They also called for policies that encourage current tobacco users to reduce their health risks by switching from the most to the least harmful nicotine-containing products.

This group of experts, who have devoted their careers to reducing tobacco use, met in a two-year process they called The Strategic Dialogue on Tobacco Harm Reduction (the Dialogue). Their vision: a world in which virtually no one uses cigarettes. Dialogue participants concluded that realizing that vision would have a profound impact on reducing death and disease from tobacco use.

Their report recommends various ways to regulate tobacco products based on public health needs. It also recommends helping tobacco users who are unable or unwilling to quit to shift to the least harmful nicotine products. Prominent among the group's recommendations are:

  • Regulation of all aspects of promotion, advertising, and labeling of tobacco products

  • Prohibition of claims touting reductions in exposure to harmful components in tobacco or smoke unless there is sufficient scientific evidence that risk has been reduced as well

  • Regulation of harmful compounds in all tobacco products

  • Accurate education of the public regarding the relative risks of different nicotine-containing products

  • Higher taxes on cigarettes

  • Expanded anti-tobacco advertising

  • Strong programs to encourage and support tobacco cessation

These recommendations are made at a time when tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S. and costs our society almost $200 billion per year. Nearly 440,000 people will die this year alone in the U.S. from tobacco related illnesses. Around the world, an estimated one billion people will die prematurely from tobacco use this century, a ten-fold increase over the 20th century if current trends continue. Recent products offered by the tobacco industry claim reductions in exposure to toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke and oral tobacco. Some make implied or direct claims to reduce the risk of cancer or other diseases. However, public health experts caution that these claims have not been scientifically substantiated. Such misrepresentations can lead to misperceptions about the safety of these products and result in greater tobacco use.

"Bold thinking is required to reverse the catastrophic projections for tobacco-caused deaths in this century," said Dialogue co-chair Mitch Zeller. "Simply put, there is no 'one size fits all' method to quit or reduce smoking. The public health community has failed to provide appropriate guidance on all the evidence-based methods available so that smokers concerned about their health but who find themselves unable or unwilling to quit have options on how to quit smoking successfully."

Source: American Legacy Foundation 02 08

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