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The Number 1 Lie for Smokers Who Want to Wean off or Quit Smoking

Tim Boyer's picture
Quitting Smoking

Recent national news sources tell us that an alleged report issued by the Italian Health Ministry warns the public that smoking e-cigarettes is not as safe as advertised; and furthermore, that e-cigarettes do not actually help smokers quit smoking. While multiple scientific studies have reported that smoking e-cigarettes may not be safe, it remains to be seen whether there is scientific evidence supporting the claim that e-cigarettes do not actually help smokers quit smoking.

Quitting smoking is a serious health concern for many who find that their smoking habit is truly an addiction that won’t dissipate as easily as the puffs of smoke from their lit cigarette. One of the fallacies of quitting smoking is that it can be treated like dieting by choosing “lighter” cigarettes that offer less harmful tar and nicotine as well as other cancer-causing agents.

The rationale that quitting smoking can be aided by “safer” low-tar/low-nicotine cigarettes is that like eating “healthier” foods that are lower in fat will aid weight loss, weaning appears to be reasonable approach―if not at least a healthier alternative―to smoking regular cigarettes.

However, multiple sources outside of the tobacco industry say that filtered light cigarettes may be just as harmful to a smoker’s lungs as regular cigarettes and that weaning off of cigarettes in this way will not work.

Their justification of being against the development of filtered cigarettes is that the tobacco industry has not shown that filters developed thus far are efficacious or safe. Since the 1950’s the tobacco industry has been active in trying to develop a “safe” cigarette by employ a number of filter designs including

• Cellulose acetate filters for trapping tar
• Highly porous cigarette paper to allow toxic chemicals to escape
• Ventilation holes in the filter tip to dilute inhaled smoke with air
• Various blends of tobacco with “neutralizing compounds”

Their studies claiming successful design of safer cigarettes were based on measurements of tar and nicotine analyzed via a “puffing” machine that reportedly is an accurate mimic of how an individual smokes.

Critics of these studies contested the accuracy of the puffing machines and tell us that the way people draw on a lit cigarette varies from one person to another and that the results of the puffing machine analysis significantly underreports the actual levels of tar, nicotine and other chemicals released from a lit cigarette.

One of the grievances the critics of the tobacco industry have is that even if the cigarette filters did work as advertised, studies have shown the added problem of smoker compensation. Smoker compensation is due to that cigarettes that are lower in tar also tend to be lower in nicotine, which then results in smokers addicted to nicotine unintentionally compensating when smoking filtered cigarettes by:

• Taking longer drags
• Smoking more frequently
• Blocking filters with their fingers to prevent air dilution

Furthermore, by sucking more heavily on the filtered cigarette they may also be exposing themselves to higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals in comparison to smoking a regular unfiltered cigarette in a normal fashion.

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According to The New York State Smokers' Quitline, filters in cigarettes are harmful for a number of reasons:

• Filters do not block all the bad chemicals in smoke.
• Filtered smoke feels milder on the throat, making it easier to take bigger and deeper puffs.
• Filters help block only the biggest tar particles while letting through the smaller bits of tar that can travel deeper into your lungs.
• Most cigarette filters are made of the same material as camera film (cellulose acetate).
• Each individual filter is made of thousands of tiny fibers.
• The inside of the filter is painted white to make it appear clean.
• During smoking, these fibers can come off into your mouth and be inhaled into your lungs.

And, reports that the tobacco industry hides info that consumers should be aware of:

“Tobacco industry documents show that they have known about filter fiber fallout since at least the 1950s. ‘Carbon particles were released from all cigarettes tested. In some studies, the particles released from cigarette filters were described as: ‘…too numerous to count.’ Memo to Judy Nash from Nancy R. Ryan. Febuary 18, 1982. "Filter particle fallout." Bates No. 1000805035.

"He said when [a filter] plug is cut ...there always remains a few loose, hard particles of filament. These loose, hard pieces of material are then sucked down into the lungs of the smoker." Memo to Mr. O.P. McComas from Anne C. Stubing. May 1, 1957. (no title). Bates No. 2040015018-2040015020.”

The take-home message for those smokers who want to wean off or completely stop smoking is that the idea of switching to filtered cigarettes is not a safe or efficacious way to solve their smoking problem. For help on how to quit smoking, follow this link to a government sponsored health site on tobacco and quitting smoking.

For an informative article about tips on how to quit smoking, follow this link to an article titled “Top 25 Tips of 2013 to Help Quitting Smokers Say No to Tobacco.”

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile


The New York State Smokers' Quitline

National Cancer Institute: Light Cigarettes and Cancer Risk

NOVA: Safer Cigarettes--A History

This page is updated on June 11, 2013.