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Journals Should Evaluate All Science on the Merits.

Posted by JeffStier on 23 Feb 2010 at 20:23 GMT

Tobacco is indisputably bad for health. I cannot imagine a widely used product that is worse than cigarettes. And as the editorial points out, cigarettes, unlike food or medicine have no health benefits. Cigarette companies also have a long history of distorting science.

But this is no justification to outright censor any studies published with support of the tobacco industry. Isn't it the job of peer-reviewers to evaluate studies on their merits? What good is a peer-reviewed journal if a journal doesn't trust itself to determine whether a study is valid?

The tobacco industry, like any other industry, non-profit organization, individual scientist, or even government entity has a bias. But this new policy throws out the baby with the bathwater. Granted, there's an ocean's worth of bathwater. But why throw out the baby, no matter how small, when you ought to have the ability to discern between the two?

There is growing evidence that the use of smokeless tobacco may help cigarette smokers quit smoking cigarettes. In doing so, they significantly reduce their tobacco related risks. Certainly, there are valid
arguments to be made by both sides of this issue. But who, if not for the tobacco industry, would fund such harm reduction studies? Unfortunately, perhaps because of a bias by government scientists and policy
makers, U.S. federal agencies are not investing in this type of research.

Why not allow the tobacco industry to fund and offer for publication studies on such issues. Journals should review such studies, like all others, with the highest level of scrutiny and publish them, only if they pass scientific muster.

Jeff Stier, Esq.
Associate Director
American Council on Science and Health

No competing interests declared.