Cancer. Heart disease. Death. Although the risks of smoking are well documented, millions of smokers believe that low-tar cigarettes are a safer alternative to their high-tar cousins. But are low tar cigarettes, sometimes called “light” cigarettes, as safe as many smokers believe? The answer is a clear and definitive no. Here are some truths about low-tar tobacco products.
Numerous studies show that low-tar tobacco products are no safer than the regular version. Many health problems are associated with smoking “light” cigarettes.
A study of more than 1 million smokers by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) revealed that smokers who used low-tar cigarettes had the same risk of lung cancer as those who they smoked medium tar cigarettes. Another ACS study found that low-tar products were particularly associated with the type of lung cancer known as adenocarcinoma.
Some research showed that smokers who used low-tar cigarettes had the same impaired blood flow through the coronary arteries as participants who smoked regular cigarettes. Also, light cigarettes did not reduce the risk of emphysema or heart disease.
A study among adolescents who smoked low-tar cigarettes reported significantly high levels of phlegm and cough.
How low in tar is that cigarette? The fact is: we really don’t know. Tobacco companies determine the tar levels in their products by using a machine that automatically smokes cigarettes constantly. Many consider this measurement method to be inaccurate as people’s smoking tendencies differ; for example, the machine could be taking lower levels of tar than some smokers.
Reduced tar products tend to contain lower levels of nicotine. As a result, people who smoke light cigarettes inhale the smoke more deeply to compensate for the loss of nicotine, the addictive substance. They drag the tar deeper into their lungs, inhale more frequently, and hold on to the puff for a longer period of time than regular cigarette smokers. Additionally, evidence shows that some low-tar smokers will cover the holes near the filter, which are specifically designed to reduce the amount of smoke inhaled, resulting in a substantial increase in smoke inhalation.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government agency that monitors the accuracy of advertising, stopped its support of the test used to determine tar levels. He argued that the terms “light” and “low tar” do not provide meaningful information to consumers regarding tar and nicotine levels.
Do low tar cigarettes make it harder to kick the habit? A massive study of nearly 31,000 American smokers found that switching to a light or low-tar cigarette actually decreased a smoker’s likelihood of quitting.
Researchers believe that the switch to low-tar cigarettes affects smoking habits more profoundly, making it much more difficult to quit smoking. Furthermore, it is believed that those who mistakenly switch to feel that light brands do not have the same negative health effects as regular cigarettes and are therefore an acceptable E cigarette alternative.
Is it tar?
Despite the widespread belief that low-tar cigarettes are safe, smokers should be wary of the many chemicals in tobacco smoke that are considered harmful. With each hit, a smoker and everyone in the vicinity of the smoker is exposed to a list of substances that resembles a Frankenstein laboratory formula: carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and formaldehyde, just to name a few.
Many of these chemical effects on the body are unknown, while others are well documented. For example, carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin to reduce the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry. The gas also combines with nicotine to set the stage for peripheral vascular disease, a condition that affects the circulatory system and can cause anything from coronary artery disease (CAD) to gangrene of the feet.
The last word
No cigarette is safe. Don’t let the myth of light cigarettes lead you to think that it reduces the risk of illness and death. On a more positive note, you can substantially lower your risk of cancer and heart problems if you quit. Find an effective solution to quit smoking today and get on the road to a healthier life.