A new study published in the journal Human Reproduction has concluded that harm reduction cigarettes are more toxic, as measured by effects on cell reproduction in cell cultures, than traditional cigarettes. The research, carried out by investigators from UC Riverside, concluded that: "For all endpoints (cell attachment to a gelatin, survival, proliferation and death), harm-reduction cigarette smoke (Marlboro Lights, Advance Lights and Quest) was as potent as, or more potent than, traditional cigarette smoke (Marlboro Red)." (see: Lin S, Tran V, Talbot P. Comparison of toxicity of smoke from traditional and harm-reduction cigarettes using mouse embryonic stem cells as a novel model for preimplantation development. Human Reproduction 2009).
Importantly, the researchers "found that both kinds of smoke from traditional and harm-reduction cigarettes are toxic to pre-implantation embryos and can retard growth or kill embryonic cells at this stage of development. Equally surprising to them was their discovery that mainstream smoke and sidestream smoke from harm-reduction cigarettes are more potent than the corresponding smoke from traditional brands of cigarettes. 'This result was unexpected since harm reduction brands purportedly have lower concentrations of toxicants,' Talbot said."
The Rest of the Story
This research reveals that the proposed FDA tobacco legislation would have absurd and disastrous consequences for the public's health. The legislation authorizes the marketing of reduced exposure cigarettes. To market such a product, a cigarette company merely needs to show that the product produces lower concentrations of toxicants and would therefore be anticipated to pose lower risks to human health. However, manufacturers do not need to actually show that the product is safer.
Nevertheless, by marketing the product as "reduced exposure," consumers are naturally going to infer that the product is safer. Also, since it will have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration, consumers will assume that the product is safer.
However, as shown by this study, it may well be the case that the product is no safer than traditional cigarettes, or the toxicity of the product may even be higher.
Thus, the FDA legislation will create a situation in which consumers are being defrauded by being deceived about the health effects of a cigarette product. The only difference between the current situation and that under the FDA bill will be that now, it is the cigarette companies that is defrauding the American public. Under the FDA legislation, it will be the federal government that is committing the fraud.
Moreover, while the research being done to study the effects of harm reduction cigarettes use animals or cell cultures as the "guinea pigs," under the FDA tobacco legislation, smokers will become the guinea pigs for testing of these products. But the relative safety of the products will not be known prior to the human testing. And even worse, both the cigarette companies and federal government will be implying to consumers that these reduced exposure products are safer than traditional cigarettes.
In my opinion, this will be not only absurd - because it transfers the fraud from the cigarette companies to the federal government - but disastrous for the public's health. We would likely see an increase in cigarette consumption as the public is led to believe that because of these reduced exposure products, cigarettes have been made safer.
This is truly a public health disaster in the making.