Levels of Carcinogen Higher in Marlboro Cigarettes
Marlboro, the world's No. 1 selling brand of cigarettes, contains significantly higher levels of a cancer-causing agent than its rivals when purchased in many of the largest markets overseas, U.S. scientists say.
Tests by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the U.S. brand contained higher amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) than other locally available cigarettes in 11 of 13 countries.
In 10 countries, including Japan and Germany, Marlboro cigarettes purchased locally had at least twice the amount of TSNAs, one of the major classes of carcinogens found in tobacco products, than competitor brands.
The findings, published in the latest edition of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, come at a time when worldwide demand for American-style, blended cigarettes is outpacing demand for other types of cigarettes.
David Ashley, a CDC tobacco expert and the lead author of the article, said it was not known whether higher levels of TSNAs would lead to a greater prevalence of cancer and other smoking-related diseases.
Ashley did, however, note that reducing TSNAs in tobacco products would not make cigarette smoking any safer.
The World Health Organization has estimated that there are more than 1.2 billion smokers on the planet and that 4 million people die each year from cancer and other smoking-related diseases.
Philip Morris USA, which markets Marlboro cigarettes, said the CDC findings were not surprising since the levels of TSNAs found in American cigarettes were traditionally higher because of differences in curing and processing.
Philip Morris USA is a unit of Altria Group Inc.
"We're aware of these higher TSNAs and have worked to reduce them," Philip Morris USA spokesman Brendan McCormick said. He added that the company had spent $35 million to lower the levels of this type of carcinogen in its products.
But anti-tobacco activists said the tobacco giants had done precious little to strip harmful contaminants from cigarettes.
"Today's study is just the most recent example of the tobacco industry's reckless disregard for the health of smokers and yet another compelling reason why cigarettes need to be regulated by the federal government," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
About 440,000 people in the United States die each year from lung cancer and other diseases caused by smoking, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the nation. There are about 46.5 million smokers in the United States.