'Safer' Cigarettes Labeled Unsafe by Opponents
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In the wake of recent test-marketing of a new and reportedly less-toxic cigarette, several anti-smoking organizations across the US have disputed the idea of a ``safer'' cigarette.
``Basically, we are opposed to the so-called 'safer' cigarettes, first of all because no one knows how safe they are. And secondly, because it will take years to find out,'' cautioned Dr. Norman Edelman, the American Lung Association's consultant for scientific affairs.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Edelman reacted both to the specific claims made by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) regarding their new ``Eclipse'' brand of cigarette and the notion of researching, developing and marketing a cigarette that potentially poses less health risks to smokers.
RJR has stated that its own research has shown that this new brand--technically a tobacco-delivery device that heats tobacco instead of burning it--delivers 80% less carcinogens than ``ultra-light'' cigarettes currently do.
``We think energy should be put towards encouraging smoking cessation, and even more importantly, smoking prevention,'' Edelman stated. ``We should be focusing on preventing teenagers from starting to smoke. So telling teenagers that there's a safe way to smoke can be exceedingly deceptive because we don't really know how safe they are.''
Edelman continued, ``Some years back the light cigarettes were being marketed as a safer cigarette. And it was found that they really weren't, because people were adjusting their puffing and the amount of cigarettes they smoked to compensate. So we don't believe there is really any good proof that there is such a thing as a safe cigarette.''
The American Heart Association's Chief Executive Officer, M. Case Wheeler, echoed the same sentiments when discussing ''Eclipse'' with Reuters Health.
``Talking about a safer cigarette is a little like playing Russian Roulette,'' he said. ``Sooner or later you're going to get the chamber with the bullet in it. You have 400,000 preventable causes of death from tobacco every year. They have claimed that this is a safer cigarette, yet the health claims they made are not true. Secondly, because there is no independent regulatory authority such as the Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) to validate their claims.''
Wheeler added, ``This is a company that has lied to us before, why would we think that they would stop lying to us? What we need is an independent regulatory authority to validate any health claims or reduced risk claims about cigarettes.''
Vince Willmore, from the Washington D.C.-based lobby group Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, pointed out to Reuters Health that an independent study released Wednesday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) raises questions about the appropriateness of labeling a product such as ``Eclipse'' as ``safe'' or ``safer.''
The MDPH study, conducted by a certified cigarette testing lab called Labstat International, Inc., compared Eclipse with two ultra-light brands, ``Now'' and ``Carlton.'' The researchers found that, contrary to RJR's claims, ``Eclipse'' produced potent carcinogens at a level equal to or greater than the existing brands--and described the 80% less carcinogen claim as ``false and misleading.''
In light of these findings, which are disputed by RJR, Willmore said research and development of ``safer'' cigarettes is unacceptable.
``The tobacco companies--given their long histories of deception--shouldn't be deciding what science is being conducted to verify their so-called health claims and what information should be released to the public,'' he said. ``As with any other consumer products these claims and the science to back them up should be regulated by an independent government agency.''