Tobacco Center Faculty Blog

November 24, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

A couple years ago the California Legislature passed a sensible law designed to stop inappropriate outsourcing of state government positions, a favorite ploy of Republicans to give tax money to their corporate pals at the expense of middle class workers.  While I support this position the reality is that there are some times when it does make sense for the Department of Public Health to contract with outside agencies.  The way that the California Department of Public Health has interpreted this law has led to some longstanding elements of the California Tobacco Control Program being defunded.
The Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee, which has responsibility to oversee the program and advise the department and State Legislature has been pressing the Department on this issue.
Given the potential seriousness of this situation I decided to add my voice to the discussion by sending the following letter:
November 21, 2013
Secretary Diana Dooley
California Health and Human Services Agency
1600 Ninth Street, Room 460
Sacramento, CA 95814

Ron Chapman, MD, MPH
Director and State Health Officer
California Department of Public Health
1615 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Secretary Dooley and Director Chapman:

November 24, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Once of the concerns that I had about the FDA getting into the tobacco business was that it would divert limited resources available to the public health community into useless bureaucratic processes.

This concern was realized in spades as people worked to get public comments into the FDA in response to its request for public comments on its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) on menthol.

The FDA is required to consider information submitted by the public (including the tobacco companies as well as public health and other interested parties) to its "docket," which is the office record of submitted materials.  Only comments submitted to the docket can be considered.

The way that the FDA has chosen to interpret this requirement, however, has generated a lot of extra work that adds nothing of substance to the discussion, as the following tale from the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium illustrates:

November 21, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Lauren Lempert and I just submitted a public comment on the FDA's Advanced Notice of Potential Rulemaking for menthol.

Our key points:

  • The FDA should simply ban menthol rather than menthol as a characterizing flavor.
  • There would be large and rapid health benefits because of people quitting smoking and fewer kids starting
  • It would be easier to enforce
  • Smuggling, to the extent that it exists, would be less of a problem
  • While the effects on smoking initiation and cessation are more important, the industry's own research, properly interpreted, shows increased toxicity of cigarette smoke when menthol is added
  • The FDA cannot take industry scientific submissions at face value

You can read the whole submission here.

November 20, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

BELLE (Fox, May 2014) has been rated “PG for thematic elements, some language and brief smoking images.” Watch the smokefree trailer.
BELLE is the dramatized biography of Dido Elizabeth Belle, daughter of an enslaved, biracial mother and a British admiral, raised as a ward in the household of the admiral’s uncle, William Murray, Earl of Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice of England. Ruling in a 1772 legal case, Mansfield put England on the path to outlawing slavery.

November 15, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

The FDA has approved eight "substantial equivalence" applications for loose moist snuff products sold in plastic cans.  These products and all the predicate tobacco products are manufactured by Altria's Swedish Match North America in several flavors including wintergreen, peach, and apple. 

As with the substantial equivalence applications the FDA approved for new Lorillard cigarettes, the FDA's public notice announcing the decision is so heavily redacted that it is impossible to make any independent scientific judgment about whether the FDA's decision was reasonable or even the scientific standards it used to make its decision.

Even worse, the FDA seems to have abandoned any consistent requirement that puts the burden on the tobacco companies to present affirmative evidence that the product is, indeed, "equivalent" to existing products.  Despite well-developed evidence that color affects perceived risk and flavor or cigarettes, the FDA said: