Recommendations for the appropriate structure, communication, and investigation of tobacco harm reduction claims an official American thoracic society policy statement

Frank T. Leone, Kai Håkon Carlsen, David Chooljian, Laura E.Crotty Alexander, Frank C. Detterbeck, Michelle N. Eakin, Sarah Evers-Casey, Harold J. Farber, Patricia Folan, Hasmeena Kathuria, Karen Latzka, Shane McDermott, Sharon McGrath-Morrow, Farzad Moazed, Alfred Munzer, Enid Neptune, Smita Pakhale, David P.L. Sachs, Jonathan Samet, Beth SufianDona Upson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Rationale: The tobacco harm reduction literature is replete with vague language, far-reaching claims, and unwarranted certainty. The American Thoracic Society has increasingly recognized the need for a framework for reliably making such claims. Evidence-based standards improving the scientific value and transparency of harm reduction claims are expected to improve their trustworthiness, clarity, and consistency. Methods: Experts from relevant American Thoracic Society committees identified key topic areas for discussion. Literature search strategy included English language articles across Medline, Google Scholar, and the Cochrane Collaborative databases, with expanded search terms including tobacco, addiction, smoking, cigarettes, nicotine, and harm reduction. Workgroup members synthesized their evidentiary summaries into a list of candidate topics suitable for inclusion in the final report. Breakout groups developed detailed content maps of each topic area, including points to be considered for suggested recommendations. Successive draft recommendations were modified using an iterative consensus process until unanimous approval was achieved. Patient representatives ensured the document's relevance to the lay public. Results: Fifteen recommendations were identified, organized into four framework elements dealing with: Estimating harm reduction among individuals, making claims on the basis of population impact, appropriately careful use of language, and ethical considerations in harm reduction. Discussion: This statement clarifies important principles guiding valid direct and inferential harm reduction claims. Ideals for effective communication with the lay public and attention to unique ethical concerns are also delineated. The authors call for formal systems of grading harm reduction evidence and regulatory assurances of longitudinal surveillance systems to document the impact of harm reduction policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e90-e105
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 2018


  • Addiction
  • E-cigarettes
  • Prevention
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco dependence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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