Fraudulent “Harm-Reduction” Tobacco Research

Last week’s issue of Circulation includes a report that further fuels my tirade against the tobacco industry as a funder of “scientific” research. Tong & Glanz describe “how the tobacco industry initiated and funded scientific work to counter epidemiological and biological conclusions that secondhand smoke causes cardiovascular disease. The industry pursued this work initially to fight smoke-free regulations; later, the work also was done to promote allegedly “reduced-harm” products.”

The scientific consensus is that frequent exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%. The industry has gone so far as to attribute the effects on blood and vascular function to “an unproven epinephrine-related stress response from odor” … not the toxic smoke itself. After detailing the subtle and not so subtle shortcomings of tobacco-funded study designs, Tong & Glanz conclude that “industry interest in preserving corporate viability has affected the design and interpretation of their cardiovascular studies”.

Specifically, they caution: “The question of whether cardiovascular disease effects, not just carcinogens, can be eliminated with the large number of chemicals in tobacco smoke must be on the forefront in the ongoing “reduced-harm” product debate, a debate that will intensify if the federal Food and Drug Association is granted authority to regulate tobacco products. The industry’s past and recent cardiovascular scientific activities indicate the need for great caution in current debates about future tobacco industry regulation and development of “reduced-harm” tobacco products.”

In commenting on this report, a spokesperson for Philip Morris USA stressed that the company continues to research ways to reduce the health risks from smoking, creating a $350 million center for research and technology in Richmond, Va. Oh joy.

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