Not long ago, I went on my bi-weekly trek to the Native American Reservation to purchase cigarettes. This has become routine ever since the per-pack price more than doubled in my state in early 2009. By taking this 120-mile round trip, I save nearly $20.00 per carton. On this particular day; however, I was taken aback; for the brand I have smoked since 1978; Camel Lights, were now known as Camel Blue!
Then it dawned on me. President Barack Obama had recently made history by allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products. Part of that measure forced tobacco companies to cease the labeling of specific brands as “lights” or “low tar.” Thus, I had my explanation for the new designation. You see, the rabid anti-smoking sentiment that has permeated our landscape from sea to shining sea has been expanded yet further by those who have the power. To be specific, it has now been decided that cigarettes labeled as light or low tar are no safer than their full-flavor counterparts. I am here to dispute this claim, but first, a little history lesson is essential to my defense.
Cigarettes are literally shrunken-down cigars; hence the name cigar(ette). Unlike with larger cigars, whose users typically draw smoke into their mouth, users of cigarettes inhale the smoke from the burning tobacco into their lungs. People had been rolling either of these smoking appliances since around 6000 B.C. The first manufactured cigarette to hit the US arrived in 1864. As the years passed, smoking became very popular and fashionable.
Regardless of brand or manufacturer, cigarettes all had one thing in common. They were rolled in paper. By 1922, they would all carry a universal size and weight. By the early 1950s, studies began to surface that suggested smoking was harmful to the individual. In response to this dilemma, R.J Reynolds developed the first filtered cigarette; Winston. These filters absorbed a great amount of the “tars” and nicotine contained in the tobacco leaves, and the resultant smoke inhaled was thus less potent. Put simply, these newfangled filtered cigarettes weren’t nearly as strong as those non-filtered Chesterfields, Lucky Strikes, or Camels.
Time marched on. By 1964, the US Surgeon General’s Report had now confirmed the link between smoking and cancer. This didn’t deter too many smokers, for in those days, about 50% of adults smoked. All the while, The Federal Trade Commission made use of “smoking machines” designed to measure the mean amount of tar and nicotine contained in the different brands. These figures were placed in advertisements as a means for customers to know how much bad stuff they were ingesting. Think of food labels today that list fat calories, and you’ll get the idea.
Well, by the early 1970s, cigarette makers began making “light” and/or “low-tar” versions of the popular brands. This was accomplished by placing tiny holes in the filters. This allowed much more air to dilute the smoke passing through, so thus the amount of tar and nicotine registered lower amounts on the aforementioned machines. And believe me, it was very easy for a smoker to tell the difference. In a word, these cigarettes were much weaker in taste. Ultra-lights involved poking even more holes into filters and producing even less taste. But eventually, smokers could wean themselves down to these lighter brands; much like a gradual switch from whole milk down to skim milk.
Within a few years, tobacco foes began to object to these light and low-tar classifications by stating that smokers simply covered the holes with either their lips or fingers, inhaled more deeply, or smoked more cigarettes to compensate. Fast-forward some 30 years later, and Big Brother agrees.
They are missing the point entirely. If holes are poked into a filter, the cigarette will still yield less concentrated smoke (and thus less tar and nicotine), regardless of how a person smokes or how many cigarettes he or she smokes! If a Camel straight, non-filtered cigarette has 25 mg of tar and a Camel light has 10, then it will be 2.5 times weaker than the former. End of story. It’s true that a smoker may have to consume more light cigarettes to get his or her satisfactory fix as it were, but they are still ingesting less tar and nicotine per cigarette! This isn’t rocket science. A 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi has about 250 calories. The same-sized bottle of Pepsi One has 1 calorie. No matter how fast you chug that bottle of Pepsi One down, you will still consume just one calorie.
And finally, this is perhaps the strongest evidence of all to suggest that light cigarettes are in fact safer. According to the Lung Cancer Alliance, in newly-diagnosed cases of lung cancer reported for 2009, it was found that about 50% occurred in patients who had stopped smoking decades earlier. Medical professionals have repeatedly stated that if a smoker quits and 15 years pass, their lung cancer risk returns to those of someone who has never smoked. If they quit decades ago, how does one explain this? There are only three possible answers, and they are as follows:
A) Quitting smoking does no good and thus the aforementioned medical claims are false.
B) Something else is causing lung cancer in half of those who have ever smoked.
C) The cigarettes of yesteryear were more harmful.
Since 87% of lung cancers are found in either smokers or ex-smokers, the third option, C, makes the most sense.
Filters didn’t come into the picture until 1954. Light cigarettes? Around 1971 or so. So let’s suppose an 80-year-old man who quit smoking in 1975 at age 45 is told he has lung cancer today. We can assume that he began smoking at around 15. Yes, the legal age is 18, but most if not all smokers start well before then. This would have been around 1945. Even if he switched to lights later, he couldn’t have done it until he had already been smoking stronger cigarettes for over 25 years, and of those first 25 years of the 30 he smoked, he would have had to smoke non-filtered cigarettes for at least 9 of them! Isn’t it just possible that those 25 years of strong cigarettes are what caused his cancer?
Certainly, this isn’t conclusive. Perhaps decades more will have to pass to prove or disprove such a theory. But if I were a betting man, I’d take this explanation.
http://www.lungcance ralliance.org/facing /facts.html http://lifestyle.ilo veindia.com/lounge/h istory-of-cigarette- 1986.html