Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reconsidering and Revising Terminologies and Definitions to Adapt to a Changing Tobacco, Nicotine, and Alternative Products Regulatory Environment

An Observational Piece

Several months ago in an observational piece about the critical role that science will be playing in terms of tobacco, nicotine and alternative product regulation, I indicated that I was planning on doing something concerning the increasing confusion over the various uses of words and terms in the tobacco, nicotine and alternative products environment. As with the other observational pieces I have done, this piece is designed to make some observations, to generate further discussion, and to hopefully initiate some new thinking.
The FDA's acquisition of regulatory authority over tobacco products (and it previous existing authorities over therapeutic nicotine replacement products), the importance of science in setting regulations, and the obvious fact that we are in a 'new era' of tobacco, nicotine and alternative product regulations, make it important at this juncture that we clearly define our terms and reconsider how we might best approach policy decisions in the coming months and years.

I have been in 'tobacco control' (I am not even entirely sure what that means in today's environment) for more than 30 years. In the early years it was relatively simple to use terms - it was a 'war' between two interests, good and evil. We in public health wore the white hats of course and the tobacco industry wore the black hats. The tobacco industry, later to be branded BIG TOBACCO, was relatively easy to define. We knew their deceitful and deceptive practices. We knew how extensive their influences were and the extent to which their money influenced decision- making. We knew that they worked hand in hand following well laid out strategies. We considered any one associated with tobacco, including tobacco farmers, retailers, advertisers etc. as a part of the tobacco industry. Today while these two extremes continue to exist there is a much larger 'gray' area that has emerged --- an area that often goes unrecognized by those who remain severely polarized and content on keeping the old ' tobacco wars' of the 80's and 90's alive....

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