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The purpose of this special supplement to Tobacco Control was to explore the state of knowledge about the public health consequences of the population shift to low yield tobacco products during the last half of the 20th century, the lessons that could be learned from that experience, and the policy and health communications recommendations that could be made as a result. The papers in this supplement establish the need for the government and the public health community to take action to correct the public's misperceptions about the supposed benefits of low yield products. Moreover, the various authors appropriately caution the tobacco control community to learn from the low yield travesty in order to prevent a repeat of those mistakes with the introduction of a new generation of so called “less hazardous” products.
The paper by Thun and Burns (p i4) firmly establishes the failure to find convincing evidence of an important reduction in disease risk for the population of smokers who smoke low yield cigarettes.1Thun and Burns conclude that selected cohort studies in the USA and the UK demonstrate that lung cancer risk continued to increase among smokers from the 1950s to the 1980s despite the widespread adoption of lower yield cigarettes. Moreover, new research shows that prior analysis of earlier data may have produced false positive results because researchers calculated risk on a per cigarette basis but smokers increased the number of cigarettes per day they smoked. They make clear that the discrepancies between the epidemiological studies and observations of population mortality rates over time can be explained by the difference in characteristics of high and low yield cigarette smokers—which include rates of cessation and compensatory changes in number of cigarettes smoked per day. Put simply, they found that there is no public health benefit from low …