Release Date: November 27, 2001
We are pleased that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has released its new monograph, Risks Associated with Smoking Cigarettes with Low Tar Machine-Measured Yields of Tar and Nicotine. We understand that this monograph represents the first step in the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) response to the Federal Trade Commission's 1998 request for assistance in developing recommendations to fix the current cigarette tar and nicotine testing methodology.
Cigarette ratings for tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide are currently determined by machine testing conducted in accordance with a method originally adopted in 1967. The Commission has been concerned about the accuracy and continued validity of this method for some time. In 1997, the FTC issued a Federal Register Notice proposing revisions to the testing methodology. Comments submitted by public health agencies urged the Commission to postpone revisions until a broader review of unresolved scientific issues surrounding the system could be addressed.
In response to these comments, in 1998, the FTC formally requested HHS to conduct "a further review into FTC's cigarette testing method, and include recommendations on whether the system should be continued, and, if it should be continued, what specific changes should be made to the testing methodology to correct the limitations [previously] identified by the NCI." (http://www.ftc.gov/os/1999/9907/98letter.pdf)
Subsequently, in 1999, the Commission reported to Congress on the status of the review of the cigarette testing method, and recommended "that Congress consider giving authority over cigarette testing to one of the Federal government's science based, public health agencies."
We also issued a "Consumer Alert" to smokers indicating that "cigarette tar and nicotine ratings can't predict the amount of tar and nicotine you get from any particular cigarette."
The NCI monograph issued today confirms these concerns and reinforces our past advice to consumers: smokers who are concerned about the health risks of smoking should stop smoking. There is no such thing as a safe cigarette.
The NCI has stated that it intends to "convene a working group to review and synthesize the science on this issue and to determine what changes should be made to the testing method to correct the limitations identified in the monograph." We look forward to working with the Department of Health and Human Services.
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