Tobacco companies diversify into ‘pharmaceuticals’

(Reuters Health) – Tobacco companies claim to be developing and selling merchandise to help cigarette smokers quit, but health researchers accuse the industry of trying to hook consumers on different – still dangerous – nicotine products.

Writing in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) call the industry’s push into the smoking-cessation market “the pharmaceuticalization of the tobacco industry.”

“The same hand that’s creating the problem is attempting to create the solution,” lead author Yogi Hendlin said in a phone interview. “But their solution is long-term nicotine maintenance, rather than total tobacco cessation.”

Marketing tobacco-industry merchandise as pharmaceutical products and devices threatens to endanger public health and to derail decades of progress in educating the public about the risks of smoking, his team’s opinion piece says.

“Tobacco companies see their future as pharmaceutical companies. They’ve already begun to acquire pharmaceutical subsidiaries, and they’re producing tobacco products that look and feel like medicines,” senior author Dr. Pamela Ling, a professor of medicine at UCSF, said in a phone interview.

The authors define “pharmaceuticalization” as the tobacco industry’s “actual and perceived transition into a pharmaceutical-like industry through the manufacture and sale of noncombustible tobacco and nicotine products for smoking cessation or long-term nicotine maintenance without the testing and oversight required of traditional pharmaceutical products.”

The effort confuses consumers, complicates the regulatory process and legitimizes the tobacco industry as a healthcare partner, they say.

In response, Philip Morris International told Reuters Health in a statement that it understood that some might question its motives.

“At the same time we are very encouraged by the growing number of experts and health authorities who believe that…

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