'Safer' Cigarettes May Hinder Anti-Tobacco Efforts
CHICAGO (Reuters Health) - A ``safer'' cigarette may be dangerous to efforts to reduce smoking, according to presentations here at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health on Tuesday.
While a cigarette with lower levels of nitrosamines or other toxins might be less harmful, it could have the perverse effect of encouraging former smokers and youth to use tobacco, while reducing the incentive of current smokers to quit, according to Dr. Greg Connolly, director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program.
Connolly spoke after delegates to the world's largest anti-tobacco meeting watched a mock marketing launch of a ''safer'' cigarette called ``Clean Cut.'' The presentation, designed by advertising professionals, predicted that a safer cigarette could reverse declining trends of cigarette consumption by erasing smokers' fears of cancer and other diseases.
According to Connolly, tobacco control advocates need to make sure that any ``safer'' cigarette is used only as part of a comprehensive tobacco control approach that includes prevention, treatment and regulation. ``Without meaningful tobacco product regulation,'' he said, ``the tobacco industry will misuse science to develop Clean Cut-like products to undermine public health efforts to deter smoking.''
While Connolly explained that he would welcome a reduction of nitrosamines in tobacco, cigarettes should also be redesigned with declining levels of nicotine and in ways that would to make them less palatable, especially to young adults who experiment with smoking. He pointed out that taking control of cigarette design would require new regulatory authority.
``The take-home message is that we need effective tobacco product regulation. I don't think we have the science or a road map to get there today,'' Connolly said. He was especially critical of current methods for assessing tar and nicotine levels in cigarettes. ``Perhaps the most important thing is meaningful product testing. Right now we have a broken system, which has been abused by the industry.''