Surgeon General Carmona Rejects Claims Smokeless Tobacco is a Safer Alternative to Cigarettes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 3 2003

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona today continued his office's proud tradition of speaking out about the tremendous harm caused by tobacco use by telling a Congressional committee, "Do not fall for the myth – a very dangerous public health myth – that smokeless tobacco is preferable to smoking." Surgeon General Carmona struck an important blow for the nation's public health by so clearly and forcefully countering the efforts of the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company to advertise smokeless tobacco products as less hazardous than cigarettes. Congress and the Federal Trade Commission, which USSTC has asked to support its claims, should respond by quickly rejecting USSTC's harmful efforts.

As Surgeon General Carmona noted in his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the office of the Surgeon General has concluded since 1986 that smokeless tobacco represents a significant health risk, can cause cancer and other non-cancerous oral conditions, can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence, and is not a safer substitute for cigarette smoking.

Surgeon General Carmona today also testified, "No matter what you may hear today or read in press reports later, I cannot conclude that the use of any tobacco product is a safer alternative to smoking." He went on to say, "While it may be technically feasible someday to create a reduced-harm tobacco product, the Institute of Medicine recently concluded that no such product exists today. When and if such a product is ever constructed, we would then have to take a look at the hard scientific data of that particular product."

The appropriate, scientifically qualified agency to regulate tobacco products and any claims made about them is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Surgeon General Carmona's testimony underscores why Congress should pass legislation to grant the FDA full and effective authority over tobacco products and reject the loophole-filled legislation advocated by some tobacco companies.

 

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