Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tobacco Harm Reduction Is Science, Not Conspiracy



Technology newsmonger The Verge should stick to covering cell phones and earbuds.  Last week it published a fantastical tale of e-cigarette intrigue, suggesting the existence of an international tobacco and vaping industry conspiracy.  The article by Liza Gross (here), richly sourced, linked my work to this imagined scheme.

I have always been entirely transparent about my research sponsors.   
I have publicly reported that my research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, from 1999 to 2005, and since at the University of Louisville, has been supported by unrestricted grants to those institutions. The funds are managed according to the institutions’ policies to assure that grantors have no influence on my research products or activities. 

Since my first publication in tobacco harm reduction (THR) in 1994, I have been interested in all THR products, regardless of manufacturer.  The Verge cited an “unsolicited” email from me to claim a connection to Reynolds, the marketer of Eclipse, but I had submitted my note via a blind "Talk to RJR" email account, as I had no relationship with anyone at the company.  The purpose of my email was to challenge Reynolds for positioning Eclipse as a lower risk product for smokers.  I objected that it was not lower risk, but rather “a tobacco product which delivers only xx% of (specific toxins) when compared with currently available products because the tobacco is heated rather than burned.”  I was correcting Reynolds, suggesting they make a reduced exposure claim rather than a reduced risk claim.  Note that when Congress gave the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco nine years later, it included both reduced risk and reduced exposure as pathways for Modified Risk Tobacco Product approval by FDA for product claims by tobacco manufacturers.

As a result of my email to Reynolds, the company provided a senior scientist to give a well- received public seminar at the UAB School of Public Health describing the company’s research and resulting peer-reviewed articles on Eclipse (here). 

Elsewhere in its story, The Verge used half-truths to besmirch me and others with regards to contact with tobacco companies.  For 23 years I have worked with a wide range of organizations interested in tobacco harm reduction.  I generated peer-reviewed articles and other reports as a scientific advisor for the American Council for Science and Health, and as a fellow of the Heartland and R Street Institutes, all without financial remuneration.  These activities fall within my responsibilities as Professor of Medicine and Endowed Chair of Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville.

The dictionary defines “verge” as the edge, rim, or margin of something.  Ms. Gross’s article espouses a conspiracy theory that, in my case, is well beyond the margin of accuracy.  Had the author contacted me, I would have provided the Tobacco Truth.


1 comment:

Roberto Sussman Livovsky said...

The piece by "The Verge" that you mention is just a long pile of fake news. The author Liza Gross has no scientific qualifications, she is simply an activist peddling conspiracy theories.