In Brief

Three APA members were among panel participants who testified at a House of Representatives Government Reform Committee hearing on the need for scientific studies on "reduced risk" tobacco products and government regulatory oversight of these products.

Psychologists Jack E. Henningfield, PhD, Lynn T. Kozlowski, PhD, and Dorothy K. Hatsukami, PhD, testified June 3 that there is no scientific evidence to support tobacco companies' claims that "reduced risk" tobacco products--such as smokeless tobacco or "light" or "low tar" cigarettes--are safer alternatives to regular cigarettes.

"It is theoretically possible that some of these products could be useful to help people quit smoking...or are less deadly tobacco products for those who are unable to quit altogether," said Henningfield, professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But without more science, nobody can know he said. Government regulation would help solve that problem, he testified.

Hatsukami agreed that regulatory authority--which would investigate claims marketing--is essential to protect public health. "Without oversight, the public cannot be assured of the validity of industry claims of reduced risk or informed about tobacco toxin constituents to which they are exposed," testified Hatsukami, professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota. "Therefore, informed decisions cannot be made."

However, claims that smokeless tobacco products are as harmful as regular cigarettes are also not supported by science, testified the other psychologist panelist, Kozlowski, professor and head of the department of bio-behavioral health at Pennsylvania State University.

In his research, Kozlowski found that smokeless tobacco use does not lead to cigarette use and is more likely to prevent smoking than cause it. "Making a smokeless user think that smokeless [tobacco] is just as dangerous as cigarettes could actually foster a switch to cigarettes," he testified.

Kozlowski said the potential "reduced risk" products may offer should add to the urgency for objective, governmental regulation. "Without such strong regulation, this promise could easily be wasted," Kozlowski said.

APA has a long history of supporting FDA regulatory authority over tobacco. Kozlowski and Hatsukami participated in APA's Science Advocacy Training Workshop series, which promotes the involvement of academic scientists in advocating for psychological research on Capitol Hill.

--M. DITTMANN