IDA's new Up in Smoke campaign highlights the futility and inhumanity of nicotine experiments on newborn and pregnant animals. Please join IDA during this week's observance of World Week for Animals in Laboratories (WWAIL) to oppose this outrage by urging the National Institutes of Health to stop funding nicotine experiments on animals and instead redirect funds towards prevention, education and smoking cessation programs.
These experiments, which have spanned decades, have failed to help us address the problem of smoking during pregnancy and its outcome on the developing newborn.
A review of the published literature on this topic shows that animal experiments have failed to consistently and reliably demonstrate nicotine's effect on learning and memory, behavioral abnormalities (such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or anxiety), and even birth weight. If we cannot reproduce results between animal experiments, and if we cannot even reliably reproduce in animals what we have observed in humans, there is no reasonable hope that continued animal experiments will elucidate the complex molecular pathways that scientists are currently using to justify this type of research.
Rather than continuing to pursue this dead-end type of research on animals, the NIH needs to redirect funding into effective social outreach programs that focus on prevention, education and assistance for smoking cessation.
In Oregon, for example, the Tobacco Prevention and Education Program launched in 1996, led to a 41 percent decline in tobacco use, outstripping the national trend. NIH has spent approximately $16.5 million on fetal nicotine studies alone. If those monies had been utilized for a national tobacco prevention effort, far more lives of women and children would have been improved.
The time has come to end reliance on outdated and cruel animal experiments. The landmark National Academy of Sciences report in June 2007 highlighted recent advances in non-animal technology that led three key government agencies, including NIH, to propose a shift away from animal data. Though that decision applied to animal toxicity testing, the same scientific principles apply to studying the physiological effects of nicotine. If we cannot assess the safety of chemicals in the human body by studying animals, likewise, we cannot learn about the molecular effect of nicotine on humans by cutting up rats' brains.
These costly and esoteric experiments fail to address the root causes that lead to human behaviors such as smoking, and they should be ended.
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