Washington (CNSNews.com) - An oral pathologist Thursday chastised the U.S. government and anti-smoking campaigns for overlooking the potential benefits of smokeless tobacco to help cigarette smokers quit and thereby lower their cancer risk.
"[Smokeless tobacco] is safer than smoking, and it is an aid to stopping people from smoking," said Dr. John Kalmar, an oral pathologist and professor at Ohio State University, during the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Washington, D.C.
Kalmar said that smokeless tobacco can play "a positive health role" because it is much more effective in delivering nicotine than current alternatives such as nicotine gum and the nicotine patch.
He made his remarks during a workshop entitled "Environmental Health: The Suppression of Science in Policy Making."
"Nicotine gum takes 30 to 40 to 50 minutes to give a blood level that is equivalent to a cigarette, while smokeless tobacco provides it almost immediately, within the first 10 to 15 minutes," Kalmar said.
Kalmar chastised the U.S. surgeon general's office for equating smokeless tobacco with cigarettes since the original smoking warning was released in 1964.
"This is fallacious, this is bad logic. I understand where the surgeon general is coming from. He wants everything to be absolutely safe, but tell me anything in our current society that is absolutely safe," Kalmar explained.
"This idea is wrong-headed. It sends the wrong message...it confuses people in the United States because they think tobacco is tobacco is tobacco," he added.
According to Kalmar, studies have shown no correlation between smokeless tobacco and heart disease or lung or throat cancer, and only a very low risk of oral cancer.
Kalmar said when he presents the data that smokeless tobacco is not a high risk for oral cancer to doctors and the public, the reaction is one of "stunned silence." Kalmar added that even he was shocked when he first discovered the data.
"I was stunned; I rebelled against [the data.] I said, 'There is no way.' I was taught that tobacco in any form was against the better health of the public good and that all forms were carcinogenic on one level or another," Kalmar said.
Even if a higher cause-and-effect relationship between oral cancer and smokeless tobacco could be established, Kalmar still believes that smokers would benefit from the "harm reduction" of switching to smokeless.
"There is some medicine we give for lymphoma patients that can induce cancer, but we accept that risk because it is a lower relative risk than it is for the disease itself," he said.
'Not a very scientific way'
Steven Milloy, author of JunkScience.com, criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's statistics showing that 400,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses.
While Milloy does not dispute the link between smoking and cancer, particularly lung cancer, he believes that the studies linking smoking to heart disease are not reliable.
"Smokers have twice the rate of heart disease than non-smokers, but smokers are not just smokers. Smokers are also people who don't exercise, they tend to have worse diets, they tend not to go to doctors, they tend to have less healthy lifestyles," Milloy said.
"So it's really not a surprise that you would find those people have more heart disease. The anti-smoking advocates overlook all that stuff," Milloy added.
Milloy summed up the way many studies calculate smoking-related deaths: "If you smoke and you die, then smoking caused your death.
"It is obviously not a very scientific way of doing things," he added.
Milloy, who is also the author of Junk Science Judo, believes that political interest groups are hijacking science to suit their causes.
"The people who use junk science most tend to be anti-business activists, environmentalists, so-called consumer groups, politicians, regulators," Milloy told CNSNews.com.
Milloy also believes that the perversion of the precautionary principle is influencing public policy in negative ways.
"With science, the burden of proof is on the researcher trying to advance a theory, but junk scientists have turned this principle upside down," he explained.
"The junk science model demands that the substance or condition be proven absolutely safe. This reversal of the burden of proof is called the precautionary principle," he explained.
These methods of science are not valid, according to Milloy.
"The morale of the story here is: 'better safe than sorry' is not science," he said.
'Air pollution has been dropping'
Joel Schwartz, an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, criticized what he believes is the flawed science behind pollution and asthma rates in the U.S.
"Pollution particulates are going down all over the country, everywhere, as the asthma rate goes up. It's just not plausible that rising asthma rates can be related to air pollution if air pollution has been dropping," Schwartz said.
Schwartz also chastised advocates for increased public transit for insisting that more mass transit can lower pollution levels.
"The reason mass transit doesn't help air pollution is because few people use it no matter how much a region spends on it or how much they build," Schwartz told CNSNews.com.
"Mass transit only accounts for a few percent of all travel in just about every metropolitan area except New York, where it only accounts for about 11 percent of all travel," he added.
Schwartz also refuted recent environmental groups' efforts to demonize SUVs as a major source of air pollution.
"Since the mid-1990s, the emissions of SUVs have been declining and are now about the same as automobiles," Schwartz said.
"The claim that suburbanization, population growth and SUVs are canceling air pollution gains is simply false, based on the data," he added.
E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.
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