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Researchers from the University of Alicante (Spain) have analyzed ten brands of cigarettes and found that the concentrations of certain harmful and carcinogenic substances vary significantly from one brand to another. Until now legislation has not covered these compounds and only establishes limits for nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. Scientists have also developed catalysts to reduce the harmful products of tobacco.
In accordance with current legislation, cigarette packets indicate the nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide concentrations in order to confirm that these do not exceed permitted levels. However the quantity of these substances is not always proportional to the toxicity levels of many other compounds¸ “therefore more suitable parameters are required for determining the toxicity level of tobacco”.
This is a conclusion of a study by chemical engineers at the University of Alicante (Spain), published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. The researchers analyzed the gases and particulate matter –tar– from ten commercial brands of blond tobacco cigarettes: seven American or British brands (Marlboro, Winston, Chesterfield, Camel, L&M, Lucky Strike and John Player) and three Spanish brands (Fortuna, Ducados, and Nobel).
“Although the products generated appear similar, the relative performance (mg/cigarette) of certain highly toxic and carcinogenic compounds varies considerably from one brand to another”, highlights to SINC María Isabel Beltrán, one of the authors.
According to the study, the proportion of compounds detected in the gases is maintained in each packet type, but there are some that do not follow this tendency, such as isoprene, crotonaldehyde, and toluene, which are among the most carcinogenic and harmful ones.
The situation is similar in the case of particulate matter. The individual performance of these compounds is correlated with the global performance for each brand, but certain harmful substances, such as hydroquinone and cotinine do not adjust to this pattern and appear more in some brands than in others.
The results also reveal that the brands with the lowest production of gaseous compounds are not those with the lowest tar levels and that the brand that generates the most isoprene, toluene, and crotonaldehyde produces a lower quantity of tar than the average. “We should not, therefore, assume that a cigarette which generates more tars is going to be more toxic than another that produces fewer”, notes Beltrán.
The performance of nicotine in the traps varies from 0.28 to 0.61 mg/cigarette, that is, the amount may double from one brand to another while remaining within legal limits. “In fact, although nicotine is responsible for the addiction, it is not the most harmful part of the cigarette”, says Beltrán. “Of the more than three thousand compounds in tobacco, there are many which are worse, such as hydrogen cyanide, 1,3-butadiene or some of the families of aldehydes, nitrosamines, and phenols”.

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