M. D. Anderson Responds to Supreme Court Ruling that FDA Cannot Regulate Tobacco
M. D. Anderson News Release 03/21/00
Officials at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center today, March 21, expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court decision against the Federal Drug Administration regulating tobacco as a drug.
"Our mission as an institution is to eradicate cancer as a threat to humanity, and we support all efforts to control or eliminate tobacco use," says Dr. Bernard Levin, vice president for cancer prevention at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "Lung cancer is the single most preventable disease."
Nicotine has been compared with cocaine and heroin in its capacity to addict, says Dr. Paul M. Cinciripini, director of M. D. Anderson's Tobacco Research and Treatment Program.
"We are disappointed in today's decision against the FDA regulating tobacco," Dr. Cinciripini says. "This was a historic opportunity to regulate an industry in the interest of public health and to permanently change tobacco use and marketing in this country. That chance has been missed. The addictive properties of nicotine are well known in the scientific community. A chance to regulate nicotine content in cigarettes, other tobacco products and new nicotine delivery devices could have impacted adolescent smoking initiation and adult smoking cessation. Tobacco is a psychoactive, highly addictive drug, just as addictive as cocaine or heroin on first use. If we eliminated tobacco use today, we would see 35 percent of all cancers disappear."
Dr. Cinciripini added that tobacco use is not a habit, but an addiction.
"Treatment of nicotine dependence may require the same type of behavioral, societal and pharmacologic strategies used in breaking addiction to other abused substances, such as alcohol or illegal drugs," he says.
The psychological aspect of nicotine addiction lingers long after physical addiction has faded, according to Dr. Cinciripini.
Additionally, research has shown that people who begin smoking as adolescents suffer more DNA damage than those who begin smoking as adults.
This is particularly important because studies have shown 3,000 youths begin smoking each day.
"This DNA damage leaves early-age smokers at even greater risk for developing lung cancer," says Dr. Margaret R. Spitz, chair of the Department of Epidemiology. "This information tells us in clearer terms than ever about the importance of preventing smoking initiation in teens, and of helping teen smokers quit," she says.
For those wanting to kick the habit, M. D. Anderson provides help through ongoing tobacco cessation studies and the Tobacco Cessation Clinic in the Cancer Prevention Center.
Summary Points on Tobacco Use and Health Policy
American Cancer Society statistics:
- In Texas, an estimated 10,600 people died of lung cancer in 1999, and an estimated 11,500 Texans were diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999. In the United States, an estimated 158,900 people died of lung cancer in 1999, and an estimated 171,600 people were diagnosed with the disease in 1999.
- Lung cancer kills more women each year than breast cancer. In the United States, an estimated 68,000 women will die of lung cancer in 1999, and 43,300 will die of breast cancer.
Findings of study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dec. 17, 1997:
- Tobacco use causes more deaths annually than alcohol, heroin, cocaine, suicide, homicide, automobile accidents, fire and AIDS combined.
- Tobacco use is an addiction, not just a habit. Less than 6 percent of Americans who quit smoking for a day remain abstinent one year later. For those trying a single cigarette, 33 to 50 percent will become addicted.
- The average age of smoking or smokeless tobacco initiation is younger than 15 years old in many countries, including the United States. Every day, more than 3,000 children and adolescents become addicted to tobacco.
- Tobacco use is epidemic. About 25 percent of Americans (48 million people) currently smoke, and about one-fifth of U.S. high school seniors smoke.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact:
- Tobacco use costs the nation nearly $100 billion every year. The estimated annual cost for smoking-related medical care is $50 billion, with the cost of lost productivity and forfeited earnings due to smoking-related disability estimated at another $50 billion per year.
M. D. Anderson fact:
- Roughly one-third of M. D. Anderson patients receive treatment for tobacco-related cancers.
Major tobacco-related research findings from M. D. Anderson:
- Discovering a possible hereditary component to nicotine addiction by identifying genetic differences in the dopamine receptor of the brain, the DRD2 allele (dopamine is the chemical responsible for pleasurable feelings). This may explain why some people have a harder time quitting smoking and others can quit "cold turkey".
- Demonstrating how exposure to tobacco carcinogens results in the critical gene mutations that cause lung cancer. M. D. Anderson researchers determined that the p53 gene, a key gene for controlling cell proliferation, can mutate in response to tobacco exposure. These genetic mutations often lead to lung cancer.
- Developed a gene therapy that can prolong life in lung cancer patients. This is accomplished by inserting normal p53 genes into adenoviruses, after first removing the virus genes. The viruses, now fortified with normal p53 genes, invade cancer cells and release the normal p53 genes to thwart lung cancer.
- Revealed that the chemopreventive agents called retinoic acids (vitamin A derivatives) can reverse pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth and prevent second primary tumors in patients who have successfully completed treatment for head and neck cancers.