Media Moves

NYT biz story presents only one side of smoke product

August 10, 2006

STATS.org, a web site at George Mason University that examines how statistics and medical data is used in the media, slammed a New York Times business story in Wednesday’s paper written by Jane Levere about a smoking product called snus, a smokless tobacco product that Swedish scientists claim reduces the harmful effects of smoking.

The critique stated, “The article highlighted plans to introduce snus to the U.S. market, where it has previously been unavailable. Though it quoted three health experts, all of them were opposed to the product and none cited any research studies. They simply concluded, without any data to back their statements, that snus would ‘not be harm reduction,’ but ‘harm creation.’

“Although there are numerous American, British and Swedish experts who have argued in favor of ‘snus’ (because the risk of lung cancer from smoking is far greater than the risks of cancer related to oral tobacco use), none were quoted by the Times.

“Nor did the story mention that Sweden, the only European country that currently permits the use of snus, has the lowest tobacco-related death rate among developed countries and is the only country to meet the World Health Organization’s goal of cutting adult smoking rates below 20 percent before the year 2000. Sweden also has the lowest proportion of male smokers in Europe.

“A simple search of the Times’ archives would have revealed an op-ed summarizing the harm reduction argument for snus and the data supporting it.

“It may be too much to ask that reporters use Google or PubMed or Nexis, but surely it’s not to much to ask that they check their own paper.”

Ouch. Read here.

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