Tobacco use continues to be a looming public health threat despite numerous tobacco control policies and programs. A recent empirically-grounded commentary by Frieden & Blakeman (2005) speculated that one reason that tobacco use persists is that there are a number of widely know myths pertaining to tobacco use that weaken efforts to expand tobacco control. In that commentary the authors review those common myths and empirical literature rebutting those myths. This week ASHES reviews their evidence and conclusions (see Figure).
Rebuttal: Evidence from the Empirical Literature
|People have free choice whether or not
|Everyone knows how bad smoking is
|Just a few cigarettes a day can’t hurt
|“Light” cigarettes are less harmful
|It’s easy to stop smoking: If people
want to quit, they will.
|Cessation medications don’t work
|Once a smoker, always a smoker
|Smokers may die earlier, but all they
lose are a couple of bad years at the end of life
|Environmental tobacco smoke may be a
nuisance, but it isn’t deadly
|Tobacco is good for the economy
|We’ve already solved the tobacco
|The tobacco industry no longer markets
to kids or undermines public health efforts
Figure. Myths and Rebuttals Identified by Frieden & Blakeman (2005). Click image to enlarge.
Frieden and Blakemen (2005) provide a large amount of empirical evidence rebutting the myths presented in Table 1. A primary goal of their review was to illustrate how myths limit the public’s ability to expand tobacco control. Although the authors have used empirical literature to contradict the existing myths, they have not related those myths specifically to tobacco control; and, consequently, cannot say that there is a causal link between the existence of the myths and poor tobacco control. One way to gain information about this link would be to survey regulators, for example, to gain their impressions of the impact of myths on policy-making decisions. Because this was a commentary, and not a meta-analysis, the authors did not present a methodological summary of their literature review. At this time we cannot evaluate the representativeness of the literature presented. Nevertheless, the authors provide compelling empirical evidence for the hollowness of the myths. It is important to note, that variations on these myths are often evident for other objects of addiction. It is possible that these myths represent some type of cultural or group rationalization for doing something risky, unhealthy, or bad. Conventional wisdoms are the collective perspectives of individuals; so, the noted myths might represent a social psychological architecture of the justification of risky behavior.
–Debi LaPlante, Senior Editor, The BASIS.
Frieden, T. R., & Blakeman, D. E. (2005). The dirty dozen: 12 myths that undermine tobacco control. American Journal of Public Health, 95(9), 1500-1505.
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