Light Cigarettes, Less Risk?
Light cigarettes are one of the hundreds of varieties of cigarettes available and they were originally marketed by tobacco companies as the “safer” kind of cigarette.
After research in the 1950s showed the link between smoking and cancer, tobacco companies started to redesign their cigarettes and develop new varieties. By the 1970s companies were marketing these new cigarettes as “light,” “low tar” and “mild.”
However, despite the claims to be safer, these “light” cigarettes were found to be just as harmful. Machine testing of light cigarettes did suggest that they produced less tar, but these results are misleading. The levels of tar inhaled when a person smokes a light cigarette are higher than the machine tests indicate and there has been no proven health benefit to smoking light cigarettes compared to regular cigarettes.
In A Nutshell
Light cigarettes were created by the tobacco companies in response to revelations about how harmful smoking can be. Light cigarettes were originally marketed as the “safer,” “low-tar” alternative to regular cigarettes.
Around half of smokers die as a result of smoking related illness and millions each year die of cancer. It’s no wonder that people were looking for a less hazardous alternative and light cigarettes claimed to be that healthier option. But, despite the popularity of light cigarettes, research has shown that they’re no less dangerous than regular cigarettes.
Tobacco companies made a number of changes to the design of cigarettes to create these “light” varieties.
Cellulose acetate filters were added with the intention of trapping tar before it is inhaled. While these cigarette filters do trap some tar there is still a large amount that enters the lungs and more that remains in the air.
Cigarette paper was made more porous than in regular cigarettes so that harmful chemicals would escape. This process doesn’t actually do anything to reduce the levels of harmful chemicals in cigarettes and these chemicals are still released into the air where they can be inhaled as second-hand smoke.
Different blends of tobacco were used to create varieties that felt less abrasive to smokers. While they can feel smoother on the throat, these varieties are just as harmful.
Ventilation holes were also added to the filter tip, allowing air to dilute the smoke as it is inhaled. Many smokers cover these holes by accident or deliberately when smoking and others simply inhale more deeply to satisfy their cravings.
We already know that around seven million people die of smoking related illnesses each year including heart disease and lung disease. In the UK alone around one hundred thousand people die as a result of smoking and second-hand smoke is estimated to cause more than ten thousand deaths each year in the UK. So, how do “light” cigarettes compare? Names like “light,” “mild” and “low-tar” imply that these light cigarettes should be less dangerous and that’s certainly what early advertising suggested. However, research has shown that there is no health benefit to smoking light cigarettes instead of regular cigarettes.
Part of the problem is that misleading tests initially showed that light cigarettes produced less tar and nicotine. These tests were carried out using machines which did not reflect the reality of a human smoking. The idea that light cigarettes are safer has remained a popular misconception to this day.
Another part of the problem is the way we smoke. Light cigarettes can expose smokers to just as much tar and other harmful chemicals as regular cigarettes because they are smoked differently. As the throat hit with light cigarettes is less noticeable, the average smoker will inhale more deeply with light cigarettes, taking in more harmful chemicals than they might expect.
Put these factors together and you’ll see why light cigarettes can be just as damaging to your health. There is no such thing as a “safe” tobacco cigarette and light cigarettes are certainly no less harmful than regular cigarettes.
Cancer And Misleading Tests
Smoking has been linked to a number of different cancers, including lung, liver and blood cancers as well as oral cancer and many more. Around fifty-thousand people in the UK die each year of smoking related cancer. Light cigarettes still contain the same cancer-causing chemicals as regular cigarettes.
Smokers who switch to light cigarettes are inhaling the same chemicals and are still at high risk of developing smoking related diseases, including cancer.
Misleading machine tests
When “light” cigarettes were tested using smoking machines they generated misleading results suggesting that the levels of tar and nicotine were lower than regular cigarettes. Studies have shown that these results are inaccurate as the smoking machines do not accurately represent how people smoke in real life.
The way smokers hold their cigarettes as well as the tendency to inhale more deeply with light cigarettes isn’t well represented in smoking machines. Studies have shown that the risk of developing smoking related diseases such as heart disease, lung disease and cancer is just as high with light cigarettes.
American Ban On Light Cigarettes
In 2009, the United States Senate passed anti-smoking legislation affecting light cigarettes. This legislation prohibits manufacturers from describing a tobacco product as “light,” “mild,” or “low-tar” with the intention of removing the implied health clams of these cigarettes.
Light cigarettes are still sold in America, but this legislation means that they are sold under different names. It has been suggested that this change will not have much impact on people’s smoking habits in the short term, but in the long term removing the “light” from light cigarettes might dissuade people from seeing these products as the “safer” option.
Light cigarettes are not a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, despite what early advertising and misleading naming might suggest. Light cigarettes still carry the risk of cancer, heart disease, lung disease and other serious illnesses, just like regular cigarettes.
Smokers who use light cigarettes are exposed to the same harmful chemicals as other smokers and can inhale just as much tar and nicotine. The only way to truly remove the dangers of smoking is to quit smoking altogether.