videos, to enhance understanding. What the authors failed to point out was that many of the Web pages in their sample were the personal anecdotes of melanoma survivors, and did not purport to be either comprehensive or medically rigorous. As a recent British Medical Journal editorial cautioned, there probably cannot be a single standard of quality on the Internet, just as there could not be for other media (Purcell, 2002). We should be cautious about adding new regulations.

Moreover, the Internet has an unexpected dark side. Although it is still a small proportion of overall sales, there is evidence that adolescent minors buy cigarettes on the Internet (Unger, Rohrbach, and Ribisl, 2001). In 2001, Ribisl, Kim, and Williams estimated that more than 88 vendors sold cigarettes online, and the number is growing. Connolly (2001:299) cautioned, “if the tobacco industry embraces this new unregulated medium, many of the major public interventions that we have developed to curb real world lung cancer could go up in a puff of cyber smoke. Taxes, ad bans, and youth access laws are easily eroded online.”

In spite of the storm clouds and frank concerns about the new communication technologies, these technologies are diffusing widely throughout the world, with rapid and consistent growth among diverse populations. Our recommendations about the new technologies are made in light of both the vast potential and the possible pitfalls.


Previously, the Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health made a series of excellent recommendations about priorities for IHCs (Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health, 1999). Recommendations focused on several broad areas, including the development and application of models for quality and evaluation; improvement of basic knowledge and understanding of the uses and applications of IHCs; enhancement of capacity, particularly in the public health sector; and increased access to new technologies, especially for diverse populations. We support

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