Will Tobacco Tests on Animals End Up in the Ashtray of History?

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2 min read

Tobacco companies have a nasty habit: poisoning and killing animals in cruel, needless smoking experiments, in which rats are stuffed into tiny tubes and forced to inhale cigarette smoke for up to six hours straight every day, sometimes for their entire lives.

Rats in Inhalation Tube

Since the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was passed in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had the authority to regulate the marketing of tobacco products. The FDA lists animal experiments among those that it recommends to compare the hazards of different products. We were concerned that this could mean that even more animals would be used in cruel tests—for instance, when a  tobacco company wants to claim that one  tobacco product is less risky than another (e.g., that certain smokeless tobacco products are less risky than cigarettes).

Multiwell Plate and Pipettor

But there is cause for optimism: Researchers from PETA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) reviewed reports of in vitro tests of tobacco products from the last five years and found that since 2009, tobacco toxicity studies have begun to shift away from poisoning animals and toward humane test methods that use human cell cultures. Their findings have been published in the current issue of Alternatives to Laboratory Animals.

In fact, the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee just evaluated the first applications to market a group of tobacco products with “reduced risk” claims from a company that relied on extensive human data rather than on cruel animal tests.

The tide is turning away from making animals suffer for our bad habits. Last December, PETA and PCRM researchers presented non-animal methods for studying chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at a workshop sponsored by the FDA and hosted by the Institute for In Vitro Sciences. Along with regulators and researchers, representatives from major tobacco companies were on hand to share and learn about ways to conduct research without harming animals.

Please urge major tobacco companies Philip Morris International and R.J. Reynolds to stop testing on animals and switch exclusively to modern, effective, and humane non-animal methods.

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