Study Says Cigarette Labeling Misleads Smokers
LONDON (Reuters) - Smokers are being lulled into a false sense of security by ``mild'' or ``light'' cigarettes because each puff is packed with more tar and nicotine than they think, scientists say.
New research reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows smokers of mild brands inhale eight times more nicotine than the amount listed on the packet.
Manufacturers estimate the tar and nicotine content, the cancer-causing and addictive elements of cigarettes, with machines but levels inhaled by smokers are much higher.
``The conclusion has to be that the tar and nicotine ratings on cigarette packets are not worth the paper they're written on,'' said Professor Martin Jarvis of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, a leading research charity.
``There is no doubt that they are misleading to consumers,'' he said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
Jarvis and his team used information from the Health Survey of England to measure levels of cotinine, a by-product of nicotine, in samples of saliva from more than 2000 adult smokers to determine the levels inhaled.
They found that instead of delivering 0.1 milligram of nicotine, ``ultra low tar'' cigarettes gives smokers nearly 1 mg and smokers of regular brands inhaled 1.4 mg of nicotine, not the 1 mg listed on the packet.
``There is evidence that people who smoke low-yielding brands are actually more health concerned,'' Jarvis added. ``To that extent these cigarettes are very unhelpful because they are giving reassurance which is false.''
Compensating For Special Filters
Mild cigarettes have the same type of tobacco as other brands but they also include special filters that dilute the nicotine and tar with air.
But Jarvis said smokers can compensate and take in as much nicotine and tar as they want by sucking harder on the filter, taking bigger puffs or by blocking the filter ventilation holes.
``Whatever means they use and often I think smokers are not always aware they are doing it, they can end up by generating far higher amounts of nicotine and tar from the cigarette,'' he said.
The study also showed people who smoked mild cigarettes tended to be older, better educated and female. Overall, the smokers preferred higher nicotine-yielding cigarettes, according to Jarvis.
The amount of nicotine taken in by smokers of both mild and regular cigarettes varied widely, he added.