A tale of two pandemics: Anti-tobacco giant talks similarities to COVID-19 at MUSC | New

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Speaking to more than 50 of his peers and the interested public, longtime anti-tobacco giant Dr. Jonathan Samet compared the century-long “tobacco pandemic” to the COVID-19 pandemic during a presentation at the Hollings Cancer Center of the Medical University of South Carolina.

He said both were affected by misinformation, both required a “whole of society” approach, and both saw a rising curve of death and disease that prompted problem solvers. government and public health sectors to act.

“That has certainly become evident with tobacco and the lung cancer epidemic and also with COVID,” Samet told the Post and Courier.

His remarks came at MUSC’s second inaugural Susan Rosenblatt Lecture, named after a famous lawyer who won record-breaking lawsuits against major tobacco companies. Rosenblatt’s widowed husband, Stanley Rosenblatt, was among the attendees.

Samet pointed to one of the main differences between the two pandemics as the presence of the tobacco industry.

“The tobacco industry is both the driver and the cause,” Samet said. “There is no one making COVID who wants it to spread.”

Samet along with Susan and Stanley Rosenblatt played a pivotal role in the fight to expose the dangers and risks of nicotine and the targeted marketing approaches that many major tobacco companies have implemented to keep millions of Americans under their hold.

Tobacco use in the United States has declined dramatically over the past 60 to 70 years, particularly among young people, an achievement Samet attributes to the “whole of society” approach, a multidisciplinary plan to address tobacco use, nicotine addiction and rising rates of lung cancer.

These included increasing public messaging to quit smoking, taking action to change social norms, ensuring limited access to tobacco products, and raising tobacco tax prices.

But like the many variants of COVID-19, the tobacco industry has successfully adapted to its stricter landscape, expanding nicotine products to non-combustible and e-cigarettes that are just as addictive as conventional cigarettes. .

“We need to understand these new products,” Samet said.


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Dr. Michael Cummings, a professor in MUSC’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, founded the Rosenblatt Lecture Series after the attorney’s death in December 2021.

Cummings said MUSC has a number of ongoing research studies around the world regarding the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping to quit smoking in teens and adults.

He said that although great progress has been made in the United States to reduce smoking rates, the country still has a long way to go and noted that cigarette consumption is still on the map, accounting for 90% of everything. tobacco consumed in the world.

“We have 30 million adult Americans who smoke,” Cummings said. “Most are addicts.”

“We need to keep pushing regulations like banning menthol in cigarettes,” Cummings added. “So people don’t have to use the products because they get addicted.”


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Cummings is a big supporter of the Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to set a cap on the amount of nicotine you can put in a burnt tobacco product to make it non-addictive.

If implemented, it would have a massive impact on smoking behavior in the United States and positively affect rates of lung cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he said.

Hollings Cancer Center has many resources for people trying to quit smoking, including a smoking treatment program and a lung cancer screening program.

For more information about smoking cessation programs at Hollings, visit www.hollingscancercenter.musc.edu/outreach/smoking-cessation.

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Follow Zharia Jeffries on Twitter @Zharia_Jeffries.

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