The battle is not between public health experts and tobacco companies..

In the Business section in the NYT this weekend, Duff Wilson and Julie Creswell put together a more balanced article than ever would have been accepted in the same paper’s Health section. (You might recall that this was perhaps the most prominent newspaper uncritically repeating the most inane tobacco nonsense of the last year if not the century, the laughable concept of and pseudo-study on third hand smoke. (See article here.)

That being said, the article contains within it a few of those amusing contradictions so typical of the anti-tobacco crowd, amusing until you realize that there are real world consequences to these folks treating health issues as political games.

The article reports critics saying that allowing tobacco companies to market their reduced risk products as reduced risk products is simply a strategy to “dodge indoor smoking laws” and “to encourage smokers to use oral tobacco products as supplements”. They go on to cite Stanton Glantz criticizing the dual use marketing that companies engage in.

In any other field, mandating that a company not describe its product accurately would be considered absurd, and furthermore having self described health proponents demanding that a company limit itself to promoting a potentially life saving alternative purely as an option to maintain the opposite is just short of criminal. To add insult to injury, these same experts then blame the companies for complying with the very regulations they, the experts, drafted.

Now, as well, the critics are saying this attempt at informing the public about the greater safety of smokeless tobacco is simply a diversion from dealing with the more harmful cigarettes. Again, one marvels at the cognitive convolutions taking place since one of the most effective way of dealing with the harm associated with smoking is to promote safer alternatives.

(The persistent spotlight on smokeless products can be found via anti-tobacco activists more than with tobacco companies. It is not uncommon to find on many dental or ENT websites volumes about the dangers of smokeless tobacco and not a mention of cigarettes.)

Ultimately, and there are so many other things to comment on here (the nonsense about flavoured tobacco products, characterizing political figures as health experts, etc..perhaps a part 2 post will come), we once again are given the notion of an upcoming battle between tobacco companies and public health experts. This dichotomy only makes sense politically and has no place is discussions of health. With the article quoting Nitzkin, we see at least some division in public health, and that is where the battle will really be on, between persons in public health who are subverting the common good for their own ends and for those who truly are trying to improve that good.

-PLB

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