Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can we make smoking safer by reducing TSNA?

A new “scientific” study from anti-smoker researchers concludes:”We found no indication that any meaningful attempt was made to reduce or at least control TSNA levels in the new varieties of the popular brands Marlboro and Camel introduced over the last decade. In light of the recently granted regulatory authority to the FDA over tobacco products, regulation of TSNA levels in cigarette tobacco should be strongly considered to reduce the levels of these potent carcinogens in cigarette smoke.”

The researchers are calling for the US FDA to dictate a reduction in the levels of TSNA (tobacco specific nitrosamines) in cigarettes. This follows a WHO (World Health Organization) proposal to mandate a lowering of selected “toxicants” in cigarette smoke published in the journal Tobacco Control in 2008.

Study authors are claiming that higher levels of TSNA in cigarette smoke are associated with a higher risk of cancer, and that reducing TSNA will have an unspecified beneficial affect. “Modification of tobacco curing methods and other changes in cigarette manufacturing techniques could substantially reduce the levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNA), a group of potent carcinogens, in cigarette smoke.”

The inference is that reducing the levels of TSNA in cigarettes will reduce the alleged health risks of smoking; that mandating lower levels of TSNA will, in fact, result in safer cigarettes.

The problem, of course, is that the specific chemicals, or chemical compounds, (the toxicants) responsible for the alleged risks related to tobacco smoke are unknown. So, following the logic of the anti-smoker crowd, there can be absolutely no scientific evidence that reducing or even eliminating specific constituents in tobacco smoke will reduce its overall toxicity.

If the specific constituents in tobacco smoke responsible for lung cancer are unknown, it follows that no safe level of exposure to those unknown constituents can be determined.

In fact, that is just what the US Surgeon General has stated unequivocally; that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. And, if there's no safe level of exposure, just how in hell will forcing the cigarette companies to reduce levels of specific tobacco constituents improve public health?

The researchers are highly critical of the tobacco companies, blaming them for their failure “to reduce or at least control TSNA levels.” But, obviously, if there is no such thing as a safer cigarette, as the anti-smoker zealots contend, then reducing the levels of some chemicals in tobacco is a complete waste of time, effort and money.

This latest study ignores the fact that it was anti-smoker zealots who were responsible for the termination of research into potentially less hazardous cigarettes. In fact, for 30 years, the anti-smoker cult has categorically rejected the possibility.

In the late seventies, the Smoking and Health Program was administered by the National Cancer Institute in the US; charged with the task of developing a less hazardous cigarette. Among those researching the possibility of less hazardous cigarettes were such notables as Gio Batta Gori and Ernst Wynder, both of whom opposed smoking.

Dr. Gori, who received the U.S. Public Health Service Superior Service Award in 1976 for his efforts, maintained that a less harmful cigarette could be developed. He did not envision a “safe” cigarette, but rather a safer cigarette, one which would reduce the risk(s) associated with smoking even though it might not eliminate those risks in their entirety. Focusing on harm reduction, Gori asserted, could substantially reduce the morbidity and mortality for which tobacco was thought responsible.

In 2002, Gori wrote: “One-fifth of humanity smokes with little indication they might soon quit, too many public and private interests benefit handsomely from the trade, and an illegal market stands eager to fill an uncontrollable demand should taxes and prices be set too high or should cigarettes be made illegal. Hence, the sensible and ethical public health policy would be to continue efforts to persuade smokers to quit, and to consider ways to reduce the risks for those who keep on smoking.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Gori's harm reduction approach to tobacco use was discarded in favour of the zealots zero tolerance policies and research on less hazardous cigarettes was terminated circa 1980 when the prohibitionists announced they could end smoking by the year 2000.

So how can the WHO and the anti-smoker zealots insist, on the one hand, that less hazardous cigarettes are neither feasible nor desirable, while on the other advocating a reduction of TSNA and other toxicants, ostensibly to facilitate some kind of health benefit to smokers?

If the anti-smoker crowd were genuinely concerned about the health of smokers, they would embrace the concept of harm reduction. They would actively promote all products with the potential to reduce the alleged hazards of smoking, including snus and the electronic cigarette, not just those products on offer from the pharmaceutical industry.

Instead, the anti-smokers stridently attempt to discredit those tobacco products, with dishonest claims and blatant misrepresentation of the facts.

This latest study, and the proposals from the WHO which preceded it, must be considered disingenuous at best. Just more bullshit and bafflegab from the disciples of the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker.


Michael J. McFadden said...

Well argued Rambler! Disingenuous indeed.... Sheesh! If the tobacco companies had come out with a statement like the FDA's they'd have been sued right off the planet.

I'm sure you've noticed all the muss and fuss about removing the terms light and mild and such from cigarettes. The idiots at the FDA are basically promoting the idea that smoking unfiltered Camels and Pall Malls is just the same, health-wise, as smoking Carlton Super Ultra Lights which have about as much smoke as a soda straw.

Keep on fighting Rambler! Love your stuff even if I don't comment that often!

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

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The best way to be healthy is to stop smoking even if it's hard to let go. The hardest part is the moment to start. But if you bare in mind and think about the negative effects it can cause you then you should be determined.

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Anonymous said...

There is a way to cure tobacco that results in Below Detectable Levels (BDL) of TSNAs. However, big tobacco is fighting it because they would have to pay royalties to the company who owns the patents (Star Scientific). So once again big tobacco is willing to put their customer's health (AND LIFE) at risk rather than spend a paltry few cents per pack.

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