‘Light’ cigarettes may be more dangerous than regular

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Smoking cigarettes indisputably causes lung cancer. But does smoking “light” cigarettes—those with ventilation around the filters that dilutes the smoke with air—offer any protection as compared to the regular kind?
Despite what the “light” descriptor implies, light cigarettes aren’t any safer—and they may actually be behind the rise in the most common form of lung cancer today, a new review from the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center concludes.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, squamous cell lung cancers were the most common form in men. But over the next 40 years as smoking declined, the incidence of a type of lung cancer called adenocarcinomas did not decrease along with them—in fact, they surpassed squamous cell cancers in about 1990 as the most common kind, according to the study. And scientists think they know what’s behind the spike: the design change resulting in “light” or “ultralight” cigarettes.
“The evidence is sufficient to conclude that the increased risk of adenocarcinoma of the lung in smokers results from changes in the design and composition of cigarettes since the 1950s,” the 2014 surgeon general’s report “The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress” concluded.
The concept that low tar consumption equated to lower smoking risks first hit in the 1950s, so cigarette companies began to search for ways to lower tar yields. They did this by adding filters, increasing the porosity of the paper, and then adding holes in the filters to dilute the smoke. While filter ventilation appeared to lower the tar yields—at least as seen in machines that mimic the smoking process—the changes to the cigs actually makes smoking them more toxic, the authors argue. Here’s why: Filtered cigarettes burn slower, allowing more time for the coal to smolder, which triggers the formation of more toxic components.
It also changes the way people smoke them, says Michael Fiore, M.D., M.P.H., the director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, who was not involved in the new review.
People take longer drags, inhale more deeply, and hold the smoke in their mouths for longer—all which increase the amount of toxins you take in, he says. That’s one of the reasons why tobacco companies were required to stop branding their cigs are “light” or “ultralight” back in 2009.

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