A new study found that cigarette filters, which were introduced years ago to reduce the number of tar smokers inhale, alter properties of smoking in a way that increases the risk of lung cancer.
The authors conducted a review on researches carried out on lung cancer, analyzing rates and changes in the types of lung cancer that are most common, and they claim that tiny ventilation holes in almost all cigarettes sold today are creating a new health risk.
The findings were published in an online report on May 22 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Holes in cigarette filters increases risk of lung cancer
According to Dr. Peter Shields, the study’s senior author from the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, the design of cigarette filters that have ventilation can make the cigarettes even more dangerous. Those holes can change the way tobacco burns and allows smokers to inhale more smoke and think that it is safer because it’s smoother.
“This applies to all cigarettes because almost all the cigarettes on the market have the holes, not just the ones that used to be called lights and ultra-lights,” said Shields, according to Reuters.
While rates of lung cancer have fallen with declines in smoking overall, the rates of lung cancer among smokers have risen, noted the researchers. Also, the type of lung cancer associated with smoking has shifted since the 1950s.
Adenocarcinoma of the lung, the lung cancer most related to smoking cigarettes, has increased by four times in men and by eight times in women since the 1950s when the design and composition of cigarettes were different.
The research team reviewed evidence linking cigarette filter ventilation to the increased rates of lung cancer. They found that filter ventilation reduced the amount of tar in the cigarette smoke when they tested it on smoking machines. They noted that the increase ventilation and slower tobacco burn result in more inhalations per cigarette as well as more toxic cancer-causing chemicals being inhaled by smokers.
“The use of the ventilation holes yields lower tar only on a machine,” said Shields, according to Reuters. “Machines have nothing to do with actual exposures in humans. The holes let them actually inhale more smoke with more cancer-causing agents.”
The researchers wrote that because of claims of lower tar content, smokers wrongly believe that a lower tar cigarette is a healthier cigarette. They noted that even while machine-measured tar and nicotine levels have decreased in recent years, there has been little change in daily nicotine intake among smokers over the past 25 years.
FDA has the authority to ask cigarette companies to get rid of filter ventilation
According to Shields, the findings show that new cigarettes are more prone to cause lung cancer. The team believes the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) could have a say in the matter to help smokers reduce cancer risks.
“The holes have no health benefits; they serve no health purpose,” said Shields. “So, if they have the potential harm, the FDA can act, even if the science is not perfect. The FDA can require cigarette manufacturers to make filters without the holes. This is easy and they are doing it for some brands already.”
Shields explained that the study is about the holes on the filters, that they’re not saying to remove filters but to change their designs by eliminating the holes on them.
He added that the FDA now has the authority to require the elimination of filter ventilation, as it doesn’t serve any public health purpose and instead provides a “false promise” of reduced risk.