June 1st, 2010
04:03 PM ET

U.S. cigarette brands tops in cancer causing chemicals

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical Managing Editor

Smokers of U.S. brand cigarettes may get more bang for their buck in the worst way according to a small study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers found U.S. made cigarettes contain more cancer-causing chemicals than some cigarettes brands made elsewhere around the world.

“Not all cigarettes are made alike” says Dr. Jim Pirkle, deputy director for science at the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health. He says this is the first study to show that “U.S. cigarettes have more of the major carcinogen [TSNAs] than foreign made cigarettes." TSNAs are “tobacco-specific nitrosamines,” the major cancer-causing substance in tobacco.

126 smokers in five cities – Waterloo, Ontario; Melbourne, Victoria (Australia); London, England, Buffalo, New York, and Minneapolis, Minnesota – were recruited for this study.

They were between the ages of 18 and 55 and smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day for the past year and had been brand loyal for at least three months. The cigarettes smoked by the study recruits represented some of the more popular brands for each country including: Players light and DuMaurier in Canada; Marlboro, Newport Light, Camel Light in the U.S.; Peter Jackson and Peter Stuyvesant in Australia; and Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut Purple in the United Kingdom.

Scientists analyzed more than 2,000 cigarette butts to get the data they are reporting today, says Pirkle.

When researchers compared cigarette brands in the U.S. to those in Canada and Australia, they found three times higher levels of the cancer causing substance in the U.S. smokers’ mouths. The mouth levels are important because they give an indication of what levels if carcinogens are going into the lungs. (Smoking tobacco is a major cause of lung cancer).

“If you want to stop exposure to these things, you have to stop smoking.”

They also found twice as much TSNA in the urine samples of U.S. smokers compared to those in Canada and Australia, an indication that cancer-causing substance has traveled throughout the body.

There is no one group that speaks for the tobacco institute anymore, according to Darryl Jason, a spokesman for the Tobacco Merchants Association (TMA), which is why he couldn’t comment on the study. The TMA was founded in 1915 to “manage information of vital interest to the worldwide tobacco industry according to their website. Jason did point out that cigarettes manufactured in the U.S. contain a different blend of tobacco from cigarettes made elsewhere.

The study acknowledges that there are different types of tobacco depending where the cigarettes are made. But that’s only one factor says Pirkle: “The TSNA levels largely come from the way tobacco is cured.” The heating process, humidity and the type of the ferlizer used to grow the tobacco also contribute to the levels of cancer causing substances, says Pirkle.

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soundoff (380 Responses)
  1. Dan

    And what DO These DO TO THE HUMAN BODY : ?

    Bud Lite,Miller Lite,Coors,Lite,Michelob Lite and so on ?

    And why not Mention all the FORMELYDHYDE in these BEERS To SPEED UP AGING Process of the POISON ???????????

    And Why not Mention the Cases of THROAT,and Lung Cancer Caused By Alcohol Rotting all the LINING of the THROAT,Lungs,Brain,Liver,Spleen ? Hmm Let me SEE here,Maybe it is only ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES that can BE LABELED LITE....
    Because at a cost to SOCIETY and Really the Killing and MAIMING OF OTHERS at a cost of $ 175 Billion a Year just because of its USE,Liite Cigarettes May be the One KILLING everyone on our highways,and Murdering people,and Raping People,And STARTING FIGHTS,And Abusing WOMEN AND CHILDREN...Yes that's RIGHT,BLAME IT ON THE CIGARETTE.....Thats the AMERICAN HIPPOCRIT WAY ...Yessssssssssssssssss

    June 1, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PJE

      Dan you really got to get a grip on reality. First cigarettes KILL! Only a moron can deny that, and yes, so does booze. Both are legal, and have huge and powerful lobies in this country. Big tobacco screwed us with their chemically enhanced addictive products and lied to us, after they hooked us big tobacco made us (I smoked for 30 years and enjoyed my addiction) the scape goats and lined us up for the "sin taxes" because we are easy targets and it limits thier liability. Big tobacco prints anti smoking litature and "warning" lables to keep thier asses out of court in the US and UK whare they are based and are willing to sacrifice these consumer markets and us to keep thier 500 Billion third world market. Yet only 100 mil has been spent on lung cancer. When we get sick and hooked THEY should bear the cost. How as a smoker who got screwed by Big Tobaco and the scum in Congress can you get so enraged.

      September 13, 2010 at 04:56 | Report abuse |
  2. Rene

    Go have a cigarette Dan.. jeeze someone is having a nic-fit

    June 1, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. C

    In response to Dan...this article is focused on cigarettes...not alcohol...

    June 1, 2010 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Pete F

    Wow Dan. Way to hijack the intent of the post with something unrelated. This is what's known as a fallacy of equivocation. Your argument rests on suggesting that alcohol is just as dangerous, perhaps if not more. True, false, arguable? Doesn't matter. At no point did this article take a stance on alcohol because that isn't the focus in any way. Stick to the argument presented and try to overcome it- don't try to sound intelligent and shift the ground. It's clearly not working for you.

    June 1, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. bmb

    Dan – please go smoke. Smoke lots and lots.

    June 1, 2010 at 22:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. John

    Lighten up Dan....

    Don't be a party pooper!

    June 1, 2010 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. pete


    Try some decaf.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mike

    Wow Dan, you have issues; whatever happened, we're sorry. Your rant aside, anyone breathing knows smoking is deadly. It's the 2nd hand smoke that bothers me. People who smoke have no idea how offensive their exhaust is to us and the harm it can cause. Right now, we can't sit on our balcony anymore because some moron is contantly smoking nasty cigars above us. He doesn't give a crap; it's his right, blah blah blah.... His wheezing tells me he'll be a dead republican soon enough.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rosilyn eberhart

      Mike,we'er dying out here, if people were not so greedy,we could live if not too late, the cigarettes makers should be made to quit making them. the government can do this if it were not for the love of money,wich is the root of all evil.please help get this ball rolling,by asking them to band cigarettes all togather. I have tried EVERYTHING but chantix and that's because it takes so long to tell all the bad side effects. i'm very scared somebody help please

      September 15, 2010 at 16:24 | Report abuse |
  9. Jon

    For some reason alcohol gets a pass. In addition to health issues, in the grocery store, beer and booze are the only products not required to list their ingredients. For some reason C. Everett Koop (Surgeon General under Reagan) decided to "get tobacco" but give booze a pass. Now the states are fully addicted to tobacco tax revenue. That's why tobacco will never be banned - the states can't afford it and don't want it banned. Why not quadruple the alcohol tax and help pay for some of those outlandish pension, pay, health and sick pay benefits of state and local employees?

    June 1, 2010 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. AC

    As cigarettes are so horribly dangerous to one's health, why on Earth are these companies allowed to make ,distribute and sell them? Is it because of the humungous amounts of money they generate along with the Cancer? I understand that the public are the ones buying and smoking them, but the responsibility shouldn't just be on them-years ago, it wasn't known just how horrific the effects of smoking were. Some people can kick the habit and there are people that can't. In the meantime, these companies are allowed to add more carcinogens to them and get away with it? That's a sad state of affairs.
    It's too bad that there are not healthcare agencies for smokers such as the ones for alcohol and/or drugs. Perhaps that would help. The aids available to help the smoker to quit may not be enough-maybe if there were some monitored environment for smokers to go and stay to help them, we wouldn't have to worry as much about the ill effects of smoking and the industry that benefits from it. A very sad situation that could possibly be alleviated. Maybe one day...

    June 1, 2010 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ben

    Good comment Dan. I really liked the caps lock and general disregard for grammar that really drives the points home.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kim

    So Dan, are you saying that because alcohol causes health problems, no one should worry about the problems caused by smoking?
    Really, men cause more health problems in this world than smoking and alcohol put together. Women and children are oppressed, raped, demeaned, beaten, killed by men, just because they aren't men.
    Since you're a man, maybe you should just keep quiet.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mike

    Wonder if this has anything to do with, fire safe cigarettes, after they made them sell the fire safe cigarettes, they sure taste bad.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      Fire safe Cigarettes are different–you can taste and feel the horrible difference of the new additives. To get rid of the excess chemicals ,microwave for twenty to thirty seconds and your cigarettes will have the old flavor w/o the new chemicals!

      January 10, 2011 at 09:23 | Report abuse |
  14. David in Houston

    I'm pretty sure you can find all sorts of articles on the internet about the dangers of drinking alcohol. This article can't cover every other vice known to mankind. Everyone already knows that smoking and drinking are bad for you. Just because there's an article about cigarettes, doesn't mean that they are giving a beer (and formaldehyde) a free-pass.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Frank

    The CDC has spent our taxpayer money to confirm the obvious. Instead of the first study, this should be called the latest study. It has been known for decades that the TSNA content is higher in US blends containing both flue cured and burley tobacco than the only flue cured tobacco blends used in Canada, England, and Australia. See many of the articles published by Stephen Hecht for example. Given this, what differences in smoking related cancer rates exist between these countries? I expect that they are minimal.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. tyler

    Dan, cigarettes still kill more than all of those combined, but alcohol will take the full burden of the spotlight one day. When it does, people will be enlightened to alcohol's injustices. It make take 100 years to get rid of cigarettes, so my guess for riddance of alcohol is 200 years. We'll all die in a nuclear holocaust before then though, so cheers!

    June 1, 2010 at 23:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Krista

    Dan, you are right...alcohol AND cigarettes are both horrible substances that kill. I have abused them both and thank God I no longer use either. Hoping many, many others break free...

    June 1, 2010 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. jim

    ........Dan, sounds like your onto something here or maybe I'm wrong.
    Pro smoking, anti drinking? Interesting take on the article about smoking and carcinogens.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Chris

    Really? Spoken like a true addict...no wait, you can stop whenever you can. However, I understand the draw...cancer, stinky, beautiful yellow hands and teeth.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Greg

    I hardly see how this matters. People have known for a long time that smoking is a primary cause of many cancers. A few more carcinogens is hardly going to make a difference. You shouldn't smoke, just like you shouldn't drink. If you choose to then it's your problem when health problems related to their use pop up.

    Thanks for reiterating the obvious. Smoking is bad, you shouldn't do it.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Brandon

    Sounds like you have no idea how beer is made. First off I'm in the beer industry and help at a micro brewery and beer is not aged wjh chemicals. Beer is made with natural ingredients unlike the hundreds of chemicals in cigarettes. Water, malt, barley and hops.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. VRaleigh

    Excuse my criticism, but Dan... you're an ignoramus. This article had nothing to do with drinking. Added to that, I'm willing to bet that smoking is more addictive AND more dangerous than alcohol. Cigarettes kill us by themselves. Alcohol, on the other hand, leads us to kill ourselves via our own drunken stupidity. Anyway.

    I'm a smoker and I believe these findings. During a trip to India in late 2009, I noticed that the cigarettes over there didn't affect me nearly as strongly as the ones I smoke here. Hell.. half of them burned up before I could even get a decent toke.

    The sad thing is that despite the horror of these findings, I'm still compelled to light up a cigarette as I type. Not to mention that the increasing price of cigarettes hasn't deterred me one bit from seeking a smoke; if anything, it's only led to me working harder at the job so that I can keep affording this stupid and disgusting habit. Sighs.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RobinS

    Uhm, the chemicals mentioned are carcinogens. It says so in the article.

    The article doesn't mention alcohol because it's not about alcohol. It's about the results of a study on chemicals in cigarettes from different countries. Again, that's stated in the article.

    You're argument is out of place, makes no sense, is off topic, and is incoherent.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. thomas einstein md

    Alcohol abuse alone is certainly a large public health hazard. Individuals who smoke and abuse alcohol have even higher cancer risks than non-smoking alcohol abusers.

    All smoking is deleterious while drinking "moderate" red wine may be beneficial.

    Alcohol can be abused in any concentration, from Lite beer to hard liquor.

    There is no hypocrisy pointing out public and individual health risks of smoking and/or alcohol abuse.

    June 1, 2010 at 23:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Edmund


    The mental health clinic called. They want to know if you have been taking your medications.

    June 2, 2010 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Ryan


    Go have a cigarette.


    June 2, 2010 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Carol

    I am beginning to believe more and more that they are adding more crap to the cigarettes. I have smoke for almost 60 years and recently had bladder cancer removed and was very lucky it did not spread and it will be 1 yr in June so far so good and I am now cigarette free cold turkey for 4 months now and so all I can say to you out there YOU CAN DO IT IF YOU WANT and another finding is it now is known to cause pandreatic cancer and for those of you who do not know there is NO CURE for that one.

    June 2, 2010 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Josh

    I agree with Dan, we should get rid of cigarettes and beers

    June 2, 2010 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Adam

    Dude settle down. But yes,everyone knows the risks, and they have for at least 20 years. So if you want to smoke, smoke, if not let them be. Already my state(WA) has over a 4$ sin tax on smokes. I can't smokes in bars or anywhere now because of laws, you should stop worryingy about my health.

    June 2, 2010 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Steve

    Wow, Dan, I might be inclined to agree with you if you weren't such an obvious psycho...

    June 2, 2010 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Fresh Air Forever

    They're not blaming everything on the cigarette you nincompoop! The research was conducted to show how US cigarettes have higher carcinogen levels than others, plain and simple. But you are obviously dead-set pro-smoking, so go outside, or stay inside (and kill your family slowly) and have a nice lung blackening smoke. But take a bath and brush your teeth first so you can be nice and clean when you go to commit your disgusting, smelly habit, you dirty ashtray.

    June 2, 2010 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Smoker in NYC

    These studies are telling us what we already know. There is no such thing as a safe cigarette. Although I'm waiting for the first "organic" cigarette (American Spirit aside.)

    If you smoke continuously, you will get cancer or other smoking related diseases at some point. As a current smoker, I understand the risks involved in my habit.

    Canadian, UK, Australian or otherwise, cigarettes contain carcinogens.

    Oh, and I somewhat agree with the insane person who previously posted regarding alcohol.

    June 2, 2010 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Anthony

    How was the Dan's comment posted? That has absolutely nothing to do with the above article.
    Establishing the carcinogen content of cigarettes is important, and doing so does not condone alcohol in any way. The storys point is that US cigarettes have higher levels of cancer causing agents, how is this a story that need not be discussed? What does alcohol have to do with this? If you want to read about effects of alcohol on the body and driving abilities, look at thousands of other articles, not this one.

    June 2, 2010 at 00:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. HRPufnstuf

    Yeah, but when I have a beer, everybody around me doesn't drink it with me. Smoke a cigarette, and everybody around gets second hand smoke, which is even more deadly than what goes through the filter.
    So why are you ragging on alcohol?

    June 2, 2010 at 00:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Jay

    And Canadian cigarettes taste better 2!

    June 2, 2010 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Jan Udgaard

    Is this really news? In Europe people traditionally smoked way more than Americans yet were healthier and had less cancer. I said 20 years ago that US cigs must have more cancer causing products because I had not seen much cancer from smoking in DK in my youth, yet we all smoked daily for decades, living to 80s and 90 years of age, no problems.

    June 2, 2010 at 01:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Bodie


    You sounds like a man who knows where a man can find some Michelob Light. Can you help me out? None of the stores in my town carry it. I'd be much obliged if you'd point out a few of the best places that sell ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES in your town. I promise my consumption of this be will not result in the raping or murdering of your town's citizenry, or in the staining of any of your town's monuments. To that point, I absolutely abhor smoking.

    June 2, 2010 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Jim

    This was a study on Cigarettes, had nothing to do with alchohol. Also, crack kills people!

    June 2, 2010 at 01:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Chris Fig

    I don't blame chemicals on people's poor judgement and lack of discipline, it's a choice to smoke, drink etc. I've always figured American cigarettes were more harmful, the rest of the world smokes as much if not more than the US and their cancer rates aren't as high

    June 2, 2010 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. david hurst

    Speaking as a medicinal chemist, and one who has been through many of these modern addictive experiences, by far and away nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man. It is the principle reason people smoke, no matter what their rationalizations. That property alone is reason for singeing out cigarettes. All of the reasons for smoking are really nice rationalizations for this potent substance. People overcome the natural sickness that one invariably sees in those just starting, and the rest of why it is positive is simply rationalization of us of an extremely addictive stimulant. Why else smoke burning and life threatening plant material, putting the material directly into the blood system.

    June 2, 2010 at 02:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Ed

    I agree with you Dan, but I'm going to say its because you can police alcohol in a much more profitable way than you can smokes... Its not like local governments really want people to stop drinking... or smoking for that fact. The amount of revenue that cities collect on those who choose to drink (the criminals) and those who need a pack of smokes a day ( the fiends) would propel any third world country onto a map of financial prosperity. Truth is though... they need people to die for there countries... all for the sake of revenue. So they let another enemy take us out... Gluttony and Poison... So twisted. Whats even worse? I feel like I need a smoke now...

    cheers- E

    June 2, 2010 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Cherylann

    Yes alcohol abuse is another "bad" thing people do to their bodies but Wait a minute!! This story is about cigarettes & again it is a known fact that cigarettes are a major cause of lung cancer & since this is a "known fact" why are they still allowed to be sold? Oh yes, this is America, so cigarette smokers have the right to smoke themselves to death & sometimes at the expensive of innocent bystanders. I think every person who smokes should have to sign a waver stating that they are aware of the risks involved & do not expect our healthcare system to have to take care of them when they can't breath. And why is it that people who smoke think it's o.k. to smoke as long as they are outside-I was at a playground with children playing & this women just lights up because she thinks it's her right? What about the right of non-smokers? Don't get me wrong, I think smokers have the right to smoke themselves to death but not whenever or wherever they want. Do it in your car with your doors closed so you can get the full benefit!!

    June 2, 2010 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Shania C.

    Dan, you are missing the point, using the comment board to flog your own personal favorite cause instead of commenting on the issue being addressed.

    My favorite aunt didn't die struggling for each breath due to alcohol, she was a teatotaler (but also a life-long smoker.) FACT: she became a smoker because bought the "cool" and "mild" and "7 out of 10 doctors prefer" messages in the old-time cigarette ads, and cigarettes killed her.

    June 2, 2010 at 02:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. darlene

    So, what's the best thing for cutting the cravings? Meaning what works best? The patch, nicorette gum, etc. I WANT TO QUIT SO BAD ITS NOT EVEN FUNNY!!!!!! And what in the world besides the nicotine is in that make these things so addictive!!! It can't just be nicotine.
    I been smoking NEWPORT'S for over 16 years now.

    June 2, 2010 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. jeff

    Dan, are you really defending cigarettes? Seriously??

    June 2, 2010 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Carlo Savoia

    Who wouldve thought that cigarettes cause cancer, no way.... and the idea with removing light from american cigarette packages is so that people dont think they are healthier, because no cigarettes are healthy,

    June 2, 2010 at 04:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Pendragon


    1) Dan is probley some Tabacco industry pawn
    2) Dan obviously didnt read the article given that there was no mention of any problems typically related to alchoholism.
    3) Dan is a loser who uses CAPS way to much, just like a child, they don't make you sound intelligent at ALL.
    4) Yes brewers use "formaldehyde" to speed up the process, but that is meager compared to the dozen or more poisons found in tabacco products, Arsenic (Highly Lethal), Tar (turns your blood to clots, can we say Pulmonary Embolism), Benzene (leukemia) , Cyanide(Suicide drug), Cadmium (used in batteries) to name a few.
    Check out http://www.quitsmokingsupport.com/whatsinit.htm

    Seriously, read and do some research before you go defending your precious cigarettes. PS. Smoking killed my mother so yes I'm slightly bias on the topic. I'm also a light/social drinker only because I know the dangers and risks of heavy drinking all to well.

    June 2, 2010 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. qaz668

    If you have not been able to quit using other methods, you may be interested in a smoking alternative that does not have the tar, or the carbon monoxide associated with smoking.

    My mother smoked for over 50 years and tried many methods to get away from her habit: patches, pills, lozenges, candy, cold turkey, but, nothing worked for her until I asked her if she would be willing to try an electronic cigarette.

    An electronic cigarette does not burn; it has an atomizer that produces what seems like smoke but is mostly water vapor from a nicotine solution. So, it is like the patch in that one avoids withdrawal symptoms, but, it provides the user with the tactile sensations of smoking so you are more likely to stick with it.

    It comes in a variety of strengths so you can step down your nicotine dose if you want to. Or, you can just use them confident that you are avoiding real cigarettes which have over 4000 chemicals in the smoke they produce, along with the tar.

    You can check them out at: http://www.CleanGreenNicotine.com

    June 2, 2010 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Barb

    Sure, they proved many years ago that cigarettes will kill us in a myriad of ways. Recently they changed the way the made cigarettes by adding something in them to make them "fire safe". Even more chemicals added by the government regulatory commissions? Makes you wonder.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RJ

    Dan, we know the health effects of alcohol and tobacco, yet we have the freedom to choose to do them. Peoples free will should not be a controlled substance, let people be people and enjoy life for as long as they please.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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