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Chinese 'low-tar' cigarettes do not deliver lower levels of nicotine and carcinogens.

  • Author(s): Gan, Quan
  • Lu, Wei
  • Xu, Jiying
  • Li, Xinjian
  • Goniewicz, Maciej
  • Goniewicz, Maciej
  • Benowitz, Neal L
  • Glantz, Stanton A
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

Low-tar cigarette smoking is gaining popularity in China. The China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) promotes low-tar cigarettes as safer than regular cigarettes.

Methods

A total of 543 male smokers smoking cigarettes with different tar yields (15 mg, regular cigarettes, 10-13 mg low-tar cigarettes and < 10 mg low-tar cigarettes) were recruited in Shanghai, China, who then completed a questionnaire on smoking behaviour and provided a urine sample for analysis of the nicotine metabolites cotinine and trans-3'-hydroxycotinine. A total of 177 urine samples were selected at random for the analysis of the carcinogens polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolites (PAHs) (1-hydroxypyrene, naphthols, hydroxyfluorenes and hydroxyphenanthrenes) and the tobacco specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-butanone (NNK) metabolites, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-butanol (NNAL) and NNAL-glucuronide. Values were normalised by creatinine to correct for possible distortions introduced by dilution or concentration of the urine.

Results

Smokers of low-tar cigarettes smoked fewer cigarettes per day (p=0.001) compared to smokers of regular cigarettes. Despite this lower reported consumption, levels of cotinine, trans-3'-hydroxycotinine and PAHs in urine of people smoking low-tar cigarettes were not correlated with nominal tar delivery of the cigarettes they smoked. Urine concentrations of NNAL were higher in smokers of lower tar than higher tar cigarettes.

Conclusions

Chinese low-tar cigarettes do not deliver lower doses of nicotine and carcinogens than regular cigarettes, therefore it is unlikely that there would be any reduction in harm. CNTC's promotion of low-tar cigarettes as 'less harmful' is a violation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which China ratified in 2005.

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