"Safe" cigarettes, which have lower levels of nicotine than conventional ones, may be even more harmful to your health, reveal researchers in California.
In recent years, tobacco companies have been marketing "safer" cigarettes made from complex fibers or genetically altered tobacco plants to reduce nicotine concentration.
But stem cell scientists at the University of California-Riverside in the US have found the smoke coming off the end of a smoldering harm reduction cigarette, known as sidestream smoke, is even more toxic than sidestream smoke from conventional brands.
Researchers say because it isn't possibly to determine chemical toxicity on actual human embryos, they developed tests with human embryonic stem cells, which model young embryos, to measure the toxicity of smoke. Tests measured both mainstream smoke, when a smoker actively inhales, and sidestream smoke, which contributes to secondhand smoke, from both conventional and harm reduction cigarette brands.
"Harm reduction products are not necessarily safer than their conventional counterparts," said the study's lead scientist Prue Talbot in a new release October 20. "Our analyses show there is significant toxicity in harm reduction products, and our data show that reduction of carcinogens in harm reduction mainstream smoke does not necessarily reduce the toxicity of unfiltered sidestream smoke." Results of the study will appear in the November issue of Toxicological Sciences.
"This information should be valuable to potential users of harm reduction cigarettes and should be taken into account when establishing policies regarding the sale, advertising, and use of harm reduction products," Talbot said.
Harm reduction brands the team tested were Marlboro Lights, Advance Premium Lights, and Quest, while Marlboro Red cigarettes represented conventional brands.
Another product touted as a safer option is the controversial electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette. It's a battery-powered device that provides inhaled doses of vaporized nicotine, but without the smoke or tobacco, or the biggest health risk, combustion of tobacco, retailers say. Global health officials, however, are waving a red flag on the costly product due to major lack of certainty with regards to its safety and effectiveness.
To read tips on quitting smoking: