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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. Michael Wong

    Clearly, Dan needs a drink 🙂

    Yes, alcohol does a lot of bad things. But that's not relevant to the fact that tobacco does a lot of bad things, and let's not allow the tobacco companies to play dumb; they KNOW what they're doing. They would gladly increase carcinogen levels if they will make their cigarettes more addictive.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. MIKE

    . THE OCEAN IS POISONED, DOES IT REALLY MATTER ANYMORE . I have to comment here cause cnn doesn't usually approve my comments because they speak truth something the media and our leaders have been failing to do.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Stape

    No one is saying that alcohol is good; they're simply saying that smoking is bad – which it is.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. William Kendig

    Dan, I don't think the point of the article is to exonerate alcohol, or fast food, or any other obviously unhealthy product. The point is that manufacturers have a duty to let us all in on the truth of the contents of their products so that we can make informed decisions. I would also ask why these chemicals are so much higher in the American products. We now know that the tobacco manufacturers manipulated their formulations to increase addictive potential. That's pretty important information. I am not sure that smokers would change behaviors based on the full disclosure, but that doesn't mean the information should be made known.

    Dan, I share your frustration regarding alcohol, it is all that you described and more.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. let's be real

    So don't smoke and don't drink, Dan. It's that simple. Your comment is out of place; this is about smoking. If you want to talk about injustice in our society, go elsewhere. I can definitely put a wager on the fact that you are most likely to be part of the problem and not the solution. So, stop spewing your garbage unless you're willing to make a stand and do something about these issues.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jamie H

    Dan, this article is about smoking not Alchohol. It isn't about comparing one against another. If we had to write about every one thing that is bad for you in one article we would have an entire encyclopedia.

    This article also has nothing to do about lite or non lite cigarettes. It is simply comparing levels of cancer causing chemicals in US cigs vs the rest of the world.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Rocky

    Dan, I'm pretty sure the article was about cigarettes and not beer.

    "FORMELYDHYDE" (sic) in beer? You need to do some research. Formaldehyde (that's how the word is spelled) is neither added to beer nor a byproduct of it.

    Anyhow, I'm all for the freedom to poison one's self. And knowing that American cigarettes are more potent is very interesting.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Clarification

    This is an article reporting on the findings of a study on cigarettes. This is not a piece comparing and contrasting cigarette and alcohol usage- thus why they do not mention alcohol and the perils of consumption. This article is about cigarettes. (Also, 'hippocrit' is not a word, it is spelled hypocrite).

    June 2, 2010 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Blake

    Hmmm, Dan, need to light up?

    It all boils down to making a personal choice. The medical info is out there about the consequences of using and abusing these "drugs of choice" and we definitively know they can cause health problems so the fault ultimately lies with the user who made the conscious choice to put the substance in their body.

    If you smoke or drink excessively, you can expect bad things to happen with your health. End of story.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Blake

    If the count the amount of TSNA's in the butts, they are only counting the amount that is filtered out. They need to light a cigarette and have all the gasses into some type of chamber to veritfy it's contents. They don't need to find out from just the people, but rather the chemical contents of the cigarettes themselves.

    June 2, 2010 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. patNY

    At one point, so called scientists put forth "data" to confuse the public of the connection between smoking and cancer. Those scientists were hired by the tobacco companies. This is not unlike so called scientists hired by the oil companies that try to put forth "data" to confuse the public over global warming. if you doubt global warming's manmade connection to burning fossel fuels, then you probably still doubt that smoking causes lung cancer.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. donna

    Darlene – go to the doctor and ask about Chantix. It is working for me. Of course I am having some really funky dreams, but I'm not smoking.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. John

    Dan is 100% correct! Those of us who choose to smoke are really getting tired of all the loud-mouthed, crybaby, do-gooders who are looking out for our health. And, it would be really nice if all you anti-tobacco jihadists would just calm down a bit. Regardless of all the anti-tobacco hype peddled by big pharma trying to sell their stop-smoking poision pills, a whiff of cigarette smoke (especially outdoors) IS NOT A HEALTH HAZARD!

    June 2, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Phillip

    Quick question for this article: who cares?

    Smoking is in again, circa 1960's. We want to smoke because you don't want us to. Just listening to the whining tools in this comments section makes me so irrate, I just want to relax with the smooth, refreshing taste of a Morolboro, rolled from the finest southern crop of sun grown tobacco...

    June 2, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Bob

    I used to be a smoker, it took me 12 attempts to quit and I am so thankful that I did and that I am in my forties when I did it! Looking back, I would have never started had I known all the implications of cigarette smoking and how difficult it would be to quit.

    I would love to see them banned but then part of me says "Hey! If someone wants to die an agonizing death–struggling to breathe; who am I to say No?" Maybe we could televise it–a new reality show... put all the people dying from cigarette related illnesses in a room and have bets as to who kicks the bucket first and who will suffer the most and we could all place wagers on this. Someone besides the cigarette companies and the government should benefit from this! Another idea for a show would be to have all cigarette smokers in a room and take their cigarettes away, we could watch and bet on who would have a nicotine fit first and such.

    I have no pity on smokers that die from their addiction–none!!!!! There is no benefits from cigarette smoking except for the tax dollars it puts in the system.

    'nuff said.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jeff

    Smoking is the best population control ever invented, plus there is the added bonus of tax dollars!!! Its a win win situation, except I guess for the person with lung cancer, or the poor waitress that will get lung cancer just doing her job, or child that will get lung cancer because mom and dad smoke in there home and car and these poor individuals get exposed to lots of second hand smoke.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Zigman61

    Ok – two things. Phillip it's Marlboro. Dan – please go smoke and have some decaf coffee and settle down, dear.

    If one chooses to smoke and do that to their body, then so be it. If you honestly cared about yourself you would quit. It's been known for years that U.S. cigarettes have more chemicals than those outside the U.S.

    It's simple – your choice. Choose wisely.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Johnny k

    Who cares? Everyone is going to die... Anyone thats got a problem with cigarettes step in front of me and ill blow my smoke politely into your face. Have a horrible day!

    June 2, 2010 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Anni

    US cigarettes contain more cancer-causing chemicals because the companies who make the cigarettes are allowed to put the chemicals in them. Another example of how big business profits at the expense and health of the American people. I'm not saying cigarettes would be okay without the all cancer-causing stuff, but why shove the chemicals in and then scream about how smoking causes cancer? Smokers aren't doing this to themselves, it's being done to them.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. joey b

    What isnt killing people these days? seems like you cant leave your own bedroom without having a concern come to your mind at all...people smoke at all ages to realive pain, maybe stress? am i saying this is okay no. Cars kill people, and yet people continue to drive. oceans kill people, and people continue to swim. idk where im going with this but i guess what im trying to say is lifes short, smoke up =)

    June 2, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Enrico

    Actually a whiff of smoke is a health hazard and especially for me since I suffer from asthma. I think the point of the article is that people in the United States are being needlessly subjected to carcinogens which should be criminal. By looking at European cigarettes they've obviously figured out a way to limit these cancer causing agents while companies in the US haven't bothered, because frankly, they don't care about your health. This, like oil rig disasters, is an obvious example of where a lack of regulation creates an immediate threat to society. Cries of socialism and personal freedom are okay in a libertarian fantasy world where everyone assumes unchecked corporatism is okay because you as an individual can make a choice. However, tell that to the naive teenager (we all were) or someone with addictive tenancies who has been trying to quit for decades. Then, you've got companies injecting or not removing toxins that kill you even though they know they're there. That's criminal in most countries. Thank God for smoking bans.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Don

    I am confused, not long ago scientists said its health for someone to have at least one drink a day.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jared

    I would like to see the POLITICIANS put a hire tax on liquor. But that won't happen will it? With all the death associated with it. All the funded AA programs the goverment spends money on. I wonder if they think it' ok?

    June 2, 2010 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Jon

    Yes Dan, and all the alcoholics that suffer from liver failure are cheering you on!

    June 2, 2010 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. jennifer

    OK... The point of this article is not that cigarettes are bad in themselves, everyone knows that are bad, that horse has been beaten enough. The point is that American made/produced tobacco is higher in carcinogens than tobacco produced in other countries (Canada & Australia). As American's our standards are supposed to be higher. We are willing to ban flavored cigarettes, because they might appeal to children, yet we are willing to overlook fertilizers and curing methods that will cause cancer faster in the kids that start smoking their parents cigarettes (that was how I started). Once again I am sure that moderation is an issue, there are people smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day. 20 cigarettes a day= 7300 cigarettes a year. Over 10 years that is 73,000 cigarettes. If you ate 73,000 carrots there would be side effects, especially if they were grown with pesticides and fertilizers. We need to minimize any risks that we can in an industry that we already know takes lives.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. kalli everhart

    I AGREE WITH DAN.....People who smoke cigarettes kill themselves......people who drink alcohol kill OTHERS!! Hmmmm, which one should be illegal?!?!?!?

    June 2, 2010 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jeff

    I do not find this surprising at all. I remember (back in the days I was a smoker) the first time I went to the US (I´m from the UK) and I bought my regular brand of light cigarettes. They were seemingly stronger than the full strength version back home. I´d like to see some data on the filters used as I am sure they are different. Personally I believe this is more of a factor.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Bill

    This is OLD news. The real problem w cigarettes is all the chemical crap in the filter, the paper, and the tobacco itself, to make it burn evenly, etc. Smoking tobacco is not going to make you healthy, but it is the delivery system (cigarette) that is the real culprit.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. andrew

    smokers. glad to see you understand the risks. but should society have to pay for your negligance? im talking in the way of taxes, health care , doctors time, just to fight your cancer when you knew you would get it. not fair.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Knrebel23

    Ok, so this is the first time I have ever seen comments go on about a single poster. Not that I don't understand as Dan is clearly unstable.

    I am a smoker that tries to be responsible about my smoking. If I have a guest in my home I ask if it is ok if I smoke and if it bothers them I will go outside. That is in my own home mind you. I am well aware of the dangers of smoking and choose to continue regardless, it is MY CHOICE and Uncle Sam has no right choosing for me. All he needs to do is make sure that I am informed when I make my choice.

    Now for all you Non-smokers that seem to enjoy bashing smokers and blaming us for your exposure to second hand smoke here is my reply:

    If you see me walking down the street with a lit ciggarette it is your right to cross the street to avoid me. If a bar allows smoking, it is your right not to enter that bar and find one that is smoke free. Stop all the complaining and take responsibility for yourselves, you have the right to avoid smokers if you want and if you dont then that is your choice to expose yourself. The government has no right to tell a PRIVATE business owner they cant allow smoking just because Non-smokers are to lazy to take responsibility for themselves and not enter a smoking establishment.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Anna

    I love how everyone trashed Dan... he is a little up tight.

    Getting back to the subject matter; I recently moved to a state where cigarettes are $10 more a carton so I purchased some on line. They were the same brand I normally smoke, but the packaging was slightly different, and I think they were made/came from India. They smoked longer and didn't have that strange after taste I notice with the US store brand. Made me wonder if they put less crap in them... they had a more natural tobacco taste. Anyway, they were around $25 with shipping. I know I should quit, but after reading this article and until I decide to put them down, I think I'll go back to the over seas brand.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. rh

    For years RJR has added back nicotine to cigarettes to make them more potent. Because nicotine is originally in cigarettes, they feel they do not have to report it. GATX was involved, do some legwork.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Snowcat704

    Somebody should compare the level of "TSNA's" in Philip Morris and other contemporary products with traditionally-gathered organic-raised air-cure tobacco and see if there's a significant difference. Natives have been smoking it hundreds, thousands of years before Columbus, it's sacred in some cultures.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. paul in knoxville

    After watching both of my wife's parents die from lung cancer I worry that wy wife is extremely vulnerable to this horrid disease .Yet she still smokes.After having to wipe her parents butts when they no longer could and seeing and feeling the devastation that the cigs caused you would think it would slow her down.These tobacco companies have you all addicted.Take some plain tobacco from a farmer and smoke it.You will never smoke again.It's the chemicals they put on them.Pray for my wife.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. J.

    FORMALDEHYDE in beer??? you twisted deranged individual, since when? ..I don't know what kind of moonshine inbred type of beer you are drinking but YOU ARE FULL OF IT... you should also quit using tobacco, it appears it's eating your brains away

    June 2, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Barbara Nash

    Also, US cigarettes (in most states) are required to have the so called fire preventable paper which in my personal opinion is way worse than the regular paper used prior. I don't know how many times I've burned myself due to the new paper and my fire has fallen off my cigarettes (just last night one fell on my couch) this never happened with the old papers. Also the new papers burn slower and burn out all the time so smokers are having to inhale harder on the cigarette. I wish these "non-smoking do good" people would just leave us smokers alone!!!!!!!

    June 2, 2010 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. julnor

    Cigarettes are the key to solving our social security and medicare insolvency problems. Just make people start chain smoking at 40 and there will be plenty of money for those who make it past 65.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Marcin

    And having know all of this FDA tries to ban safer alternatives like electionic nicotine inhallers (known as electronic cigarettes) which are proven having no cancerous ingredients and which people use and actually move away from typical cigarettes. (Like I did)

    I simply can't understand the FDA's logic. Is there any?

    June 2, 2010 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Jefe S

    I've known for a long time that U.S. cigarettes were far more dangerous in terms of carcinogenic content than those in most other countries (sorta like I knew there were other planets outside our solar system and that Ricky Martin is gay, long before astronomers and E!, respectively.)

    Anyhow, to add to the comments to Dan, if you actually believe those domestic beers are being brewed with formaldehyde, then either you, or your mother while she was pregnant with you, had FAR too much to drink. And please, if you have the spelling capacity of a 1st grader, use spell check. Terrible spelling and grammar make even nonsensical posts difficult to read.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Rowan

    Yes Dan,

    Alcohol abuse is bad for you, alcohol in moderation is not. McDonald's Big Mac's are bad for you, but to enjoy one once in a while is not. Driving cars are dangerous and can be deadly, but one can minimize the risks by driving defensively. Tylenol in high quantities can damage your liver beyond repair, but for those who take it for the occasional headache or fever, it's not. Sitting on your couch for hours and watching t.v. (being sedentary) is bad for you but watching a couple of hours at night is not.

    All of these things can be very bad for your health but taken in moderation these products are fine and can make life enjoyable. Cigarettes serve no purpose. Smoking in moderation can kill you and the second hand smoke can kill your wife & kids. This product has no safe purpose, not one.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Mike

    Our Federal Government has required cigarette companies to add "glue" to the paper of a cigerette so that it will go out if lit, but not smoked (i.e. lit but fell asleep in bed). The idea is that the glue creates a safer cigerette, hence the code FSC "Federal Safety Cigarette" located below the BAR code on all cigs now made in USA. Off Shore cigs do not contain this harmful glue on the cigarette paper, and are therefore, much safer. The FSC cigarette came about in the past year very quietly and with no news and/or public debate.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Leigh

    Next time you lift that hot dog to your lips at the ball game and take a biiiiig bite, remember that it too contains big levels of those same "nitrosamines" that found in cigarettes. They're called sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. Read the label.

    Also found in all processed meats like bologna, ham, pepperoni, etc. So next time you put that big slice of Pizza Hut Double Pepperoni in your mouth, remember all the nitrosamines you're stuffing in your body. You don't have to smoke to poison yourself with nitrosamines.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. FreezerBurned

    I've recently cut my cigarette usage to about 5 cigarettes a day. I was a pack to pack and a half smoker for 17 years.
    A friend had me try swedish snus. It's a spitless tobacco that goes under your top lip. I use the portion ones which are pouched , and not loose. The carcinogens in snus are alot less than cigarettes( except U.S.). You only absorb a little nicotine at a time, where cigarettes is all at once. Snus is usually lower in tsnas; and is made mostly of tobacco, flavor, herbs, and a flavor enhancer.
    I'd rather not use tobacco at all, but small steps first.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Sam Felice

    Dan's right. To these companies deaths are just an indicator that their products are being used a lot. Cigarettes invariably depreciate ones quality of life particularly through the health effects associated with ingesting said carcinogens. They keep you feeling low and you buy more cigarettes to pick yourself up. I do it al the time. Alcohol and other drugs work the same way.

    We need to start reminding each other that we're having fun here to keep us from killing ourselves so quickly. Maybe then government and big business will follow suit. Breath deep! Smile!

    June 2, 2010 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Nurse Lisa

    Buying cigs abroad and even in other states may mean your own state will send you a bill for all the use tax you didn't pay. A pal who was buying her brand of cigs from Russia got a big state tax bill...

    June 2, 2010 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Ralphie

    Yeah Dan, my uncle and grandfather both talked that way. By the end of their shortened lives they couldn't even stand up without getting out of breath.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Nurse Lisa

    Alcohol abuse can lead to drunk driving deaths of SELF and others, just as second hand smoke damages your kids and pets lungs too. But Dan is ignoring the fact that alcohol causes cirrhosis, it contributes to the risk for alcoholic hepatitis, liver cancer, and even alcohol related dementias, neuropathies, alcoholic heart disease, complications with medications prescribed for other conditions, impact to psychiatric status, etc etc – – – do not deny the risk to self from alcohol.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. SA

    Do you know what's in booze? It's like tea: steeped grains, sugar and yeast. That's all.

    Do you know what's in cigarettes? Neither do I.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Afriend

    Tobacco and Alcohol are both great examples of the potential of "Legalize It. Tax It." Anyone who is semi-literate is well aware that both can be harmful. Individual responsibility is the key here. If I want to risk my lungs I'll smoke. If I want to risk my liver I'll drink. if I'm intoxicated and operating a vehicle my tail should be in jail.
    Frankly, I'm disappointed that flavored cigarettes have been banned as both my girlfriend and I enjoyed them on occasion. Then again, neither of us are addicted, we just enjoy partaking in various indulgences on occasion.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Sam

    Well, I mean, the story wasn't about alcohol. It was about cigarettes, which are really, really bad for you. There are stories on alcohol as well. Kind of ties a study down when people expect it to have to include material about every other terrible substance. Let them do their jobs and you can keep on smoking, well-informed or not.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
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