research on the scope for regulation
Cigarette makers have known
how to reduce the poisonous gases in smoke for over 40 years - by using
charcoal filters. Regulation is now overdue.
personal level, quitting smoking is the best advice: smokers concerned for
their health should contact the Quitline (0800 778
778) and discuss their options.
- At a population and policy level, until New
Zealand’s ¾ million smokers
quit smoking, it makes sense to expect government to regulate to
require all cigarettes to have adequate charcoal filters.
(1) Current (lack of) government policy
Government has sufficient legislative powers
to regulate, and in 2004-5 reviewed its (lack) of such regulations.
As of May 2005, not a single regulation was
in place to protect smokers by regulating cigarette smoke poisons.
The government has given no date by which it
will regulate to fix this problem.
Zealand’s position: www.healthnz.co.nz/HealthNZtoMoH2004updated05.pdf
has changed since our 2006 research
showed that filtration could not be guaranteed to save smokers’
lives. Instead smokeless products pose truly reduced risk. See www.healthnz.co.nz/snus.htm
Why a policy is needed
80% of the identifiable
toxicity of cigarette smoke is due to invisible poisonous gases –
the rest is due to tar.
Many poisonous gases can be removed by
Charcoal was used in gas masks in World
War 2 – to absorb poisonous gases. www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWgasmasks.htm
Sufficient charcoal of reasonable quality
has to be inserted to give the maximum protection. (probably over 100
In the few brands sold in New
Zealand with charcoal filters very
little charcoal appears to be used. The Mild Seven brand tested failed
to reduce hydrogen cyanide in the smoke in comparison to a brand using
an acetate filter only. www.nzma.org.nz/journal/118-1213/
Charcoal filters taste a little
different, and so have not become popular: but smokers have not had the
importance of charcoal explained to them.
Figure 1. Token charcoal filters on sale, 2005. The slit shows a grey dusting of
charcoal on the white filter between the white acetate filter and the
two charcoal brands sold in New Zealand (Mild Seven and Kent) contain very
little charcoal. Smokers smoke
for nicotine, not for poisonous gases, and would surely appreciate
regulation to require more effective filters.
(2) The proposed policy
Regulation of New
Zealand cigarettes (currently being
revised by Ministry of Health) to reduce their toxicity.
As one of the important ways of achieving
this, the regulations can be worded to require manufacturers to insert
efficient charcoal filters.
Caution: Smokers should not assume that because
charcoal can filter out the most poisonous gases, that all will be well.
At this point in time, only about half of the cancer caused by cigarettes
can be accounted for by chemicals that can be measured in the smoke.
Carbon monoxide for example, generally cannot be filtered out. Free
radicals (trillions per puff) are not easily measured, have important
damaging effects, and are not easily removed.
Nevertheless, because many smokers are highly
addicted, government has a duty of care to filter out those major
poisonous gases which can be removed.
(3) Editorial on the scope of
NZ Smokefree e-News 15 April 2005; 9 (4): based
New Zealand Medical
Journal 15-April-2005 v.118 no.1213
Background In the next few
months the Ministry of Health is due to report to Cabinet on
the regulation of tobacco products.
Messages of the NZMJ editorial
is currently no regulation at all controlling the poisons in
cigarette smoke, which kill over 4000 New Zealanders annually.
has power in the Smokefree Environments
Act to regulate these poisons.
poisons in cigarettes and smoke are the same for all brands but
the amounts can vary by 40-60 times between brands. This shows
manufacturers can reduce emissions if they are required to do
smoke is unduly and excessively dangerous. The only New
Zealand brand fully tested, Holiday Extra mild, was the most toxic
of 37 brands studied from Australia
mild can mean extra toxic. Tar is not the main problem – causing under 20% of the toxicity in cigarette smoke.
80% is due to poisonous gases.
thirds of the identified poisonous emissions in NZ cigarette smoke
comes from three gases - butadiene, (cancer) hydrogen cyanide
(cardiovascular disease) and acrolein
(respiratory disease), and most of the rest come from the next 10
toxic gases can be tested for, but regulations are needed to make
risk is partly reducible if regulations force cigarette companies
to use charcoal filters and low emission brands.
of cigarettes can reduce cigarette cancer deaths (mainly
cancer lung) by 80 cancer deaths a year, and may also reduce
heart and lung deaths.
will remain a dangerous habit, and the best advice is to quit.
cause fires, and New Zealand
can regulate the cigarette, as New York
has, to prevent such fires. For further analysis
press on this link:
For the editorial itself, see editorial15apr05nzmj.pdf
For the two research papers by
Health New Zealand which this editorial refers to, see
For the Health New Zealand research papers on toxicity reduction,
click on www.healthnz.co.nz/toxicitypubs.htm