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Researcher defends grant to study smokeless tobacco 

Jump to full article: The Gateway (University of Alberta) (ca), 2005-11-16
Author: Chloé Fedio


The makers of Copenhagen and Skoal chewing tobacco have provided a $1.5 million grant to one U of A researcher for his study of smokeless tobacco.

The controversial grant was approved by the University’s board of ethics, providing the funding to Dr Carl V Phillips, expert in health policy and epidemiology and assistant professor of public health in the faculty of medicine.

“The salient underlying fact is that smokeless tobacco is a very good substitute for cigarettes from a health perspective, and from a perspective of providing nicotine—it’s much, much safer than the use of cigarettes,” Phillips said.

Les Hagen, executive director of the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking & Health, agreed that nicotine itself is not so harmful when delivered in forms other than tobacco, but that smokeless tobacco is not excluded from this.

“I don’t buy into the ‘quit or die’ argument. I think that we should be looking at safe ways of delivering nicotine. And we know that nicotine itself is not very harmful in comparison to tobacco,” Hagen said.

Phillips, however, emphasized that there’s overwhelming scientific evidence to suggest that smokeless tobacco is significantly less damaging than using cigarettes, and claims that ethical violations by some in his field are misleading the public, intentionally providing misinformation on the topic by lumping all forms of tobacco in the same category.

“Why don’t people make the change? I think the answer is quite obvious—and that’s what a lot of my research points towards—that they don’t know it. And the reason they don’t know it is that there’s a concerted effort by anti-tobacco activists to keep people from learning this,” Phillips said.

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Quotes from this article:

I think harm reduction is an issue that requires further examination, there’s no question about that in my view; however, the issue at hand is, should the University of Alberta accept large sums of money from a tobacco company to conduct research on harm reduction? . . . . Let’s get away from smokeless tobacco for a minute, cause there’s a hell of a lot more to harm reduction than smokeless tobacco. In fact, the most popular form of harm reduction is nicotine replacement.
Les Hagen, executive director of the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking & Health, on UST's 1.5M grant to University of Alberta (Canada) researcher Carl Phillips.

Frankly, they’re doing nothing short of killing people. Every year that passes where they don’t give people the option of switching to a reduced-risk alternative ... is another year that millions of people smoke that might not have smoked, and thousands of them die as a result.
UST-funded University of Alberta (Canada) researcher Carl Phillips.