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Tobacco-Free Kids: Don’t Tell Oklahoma Smokers the Truth

Posted Oct 10 2012 2:52pm


On October 3 I testified at an Oklahoma legislative hearing on tobacco harm reduction, providing the state’s smokers and policymakers with the facts about vastly safer smoke-free cigarette substitutes. My op ed column on the subject was published in The Oklahoman on September 30 (available here ). 

In response, an October 10 commentary by Danny McGoldrick ( here ) urged lawmakers not to inform Oklahoma smokers about safer products. 

McGoldrick argued “there’s little evidence that this tobacco industry scheme reduces smoking.  In fact, there is considerable risk it would backfire and encourage more tobacco use, including among children. The result would be more tobacco-caused death and disease.”

That these unsubstantiated, demonstrably false claims are made by a vice president for research at a national anti-tobacco group is appalling, but not unexpected.  McGoldrick’s employer, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, like other tobacco prohibitionist groups, routinely ignores scientific evidence that doesn’t support their objective.  Rather, they offer conjecture, unfounded assertions and ad hominem attacks.

The scientific foundation for tobacco harm reduction is well established by decades of research.  My comprehensive reviews of the evidence in 2006 ( here ) and 2011 ( here ) were based on 279 articles published primarily in medical and scientific journals.  Numerous articles have been published in the past year.

McGoldrick ignores this evidence.  Instead, he repeats an unsupported claim about marketing to children.  Tobacco initiation by young people should be stopped, but offering adult smokers safer products is not a children’s issue.  If Tobacco-Free Kids has evidence that tobacco manufacturers are marketing to children, they should present it to states’ attorneys general.  The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement prohibits manufacturers from targeting children, and many states have expedited processes for policing and enforcing these provisions. 

McGoldrick’s group and its allies have made significant strides in pushing the FDA to stifle promotion of smoke-free products. In March of this year, the agency released a 50-page draft document listing information that will be required for a product to be accepted as “modified [i.e., reduced] risk” (available here ).  If adopted, these overly burdensome requirements will condemn smokeless tobacco products, and therefore tobacco harm reduction, to regulatory purgatory ( here ).

For Tobacco-Free Kids, wrecking the tobacco industry is more important than saving smokers’ lives.  Discouraging the education of smokers about safer products contributes to the 440,000 smoking-attributable deaths recorded in the U.S. annually.  Public policy should support healthier choices for all Americans, including those addicted to nicotine.

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