Listing tobacco ingredients: A waste of time and resources

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In his TobaccoAnalysis blog, ACSH advisor Dr. Mike Siegel, professor at Boston University s School of Public Health, reports on the FDA s Center for Tobacco Products latest initiative to compile a list of the ingredients found in cigarettes and cigarette smoke. This endeavor, he says, is a pointless waste of time and resources, since there is nothing the agency can actually do with the list that would benefit public health.

Dr. Siegel points out that of the 10,000 to 100,000 chemicals present in cigarette smoke, only about 4,000 to 6,000 have actually been identified. Furthermore, it is unknown which constituents, at what levels, and in what combinations are responsible for the wide spectrum of diseases caused by smoking.

That, however, hasn t stopped anti-smoking groups such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids from publicly stating that cigarettes with lower levels of a certain class of chemicals called tobacco-specific nitrosamines would be safer. To my mind, writes Dr. Siegel, this is fraudulent deception.

By compiling this useless list of ingredients, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross, the FDA is giving the public and especially smokers the false impression that they re actually going to do something with this information to make a safer cigarette, but there s no evidence that s going to, or can, happen. This is just one more requirement of the 2009 law giving authority over tobacco to the FDA that will do absolutely no good.

ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan agrees, and adds, This is diverting attention away from the important fact that it s actually the toxic brew known as tobacco smoke that s killing people. I find it hard to believe the public really thinks we can diminish the dangers of cigarette smoking by reducing the amounts of a few ingredients.