US cigarettes top in carcinogen content

June 22, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

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What’s so different about American cigarettes compared to say, European cigarettes? Is it the price, the taste, the packaging? No! It is the amount of carcinogens. Yes, Americans are actually getting more of the bad stuff for their money. American cigarettes reportedly have more cancer-causing compounds than cigarettes manufactured and sold in the UK, Canada and Australia.

This is according to a study by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The results were published in the June issue of Cancer Epidemiology.

The ingredients and the manufacturing process of cigarettes vary from one manufacturer to another and from one country to another. Just how varied these can be was investigated by this study. The researchers wrote:

“Seventeen eligible cigarette brands (between 3 and 5 brands from each country) were selected on the basis of national sales and nicotine yield to identify popular brands with a range of ventilation … [how much air is mixed in with the smoke from the cigarette as it is inhaled].”

The researchers looked at 126 smokers and performed in-depth analysis of their urine and saliva as well as their cigarette butts. Nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines or TSNAs (4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) and NNAL which is the breakdown product of NNK in the body were analyzed. According to Dr. Jim Pirkle who heads the CDC lab which measures levels of chemicals in people’s bodies using a mass spectrometer:

“All of these cigarettes contain harmful levels of carcinogens, but these findings show that amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines differ from country to country, and U.S. brands are the highest in the study.”

The study results showed:

  • NNAL levels in the urine of American smokers are much higher than levels of smoker from Canada or Australia.
  • The “American blend” tobacco in US cigarettes contains more TSNAs than tobacco used in the comparator countries.
  • Australian and Canadian smokers get more nicotine from their cigarettes than UK and US smokers. However, they still get lower TSNAs than the Americans.


Some the brands tested are:

Now, before you head for the Canadian border to shop for “less dangerous” smokes there, make sure you check what the Customs requirements are.  The easiest solution, of course, is quitting.

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