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New cigarette designs don't offer lower predicted cancer risks

PORTLAND, Ore. The tobacco company's description of its new cigarette brand seems to promise a lot.

"May present less risk of cancer associated with smoking," the company boasts on its Web site, making it a natural choice "for smokers who have decided not to quit, but who are interested in a cigarette that responds to concerns about certain smoking-related illnesses, including cancer." Another tobacco firm, in a print ad for the brand, has crowed "All of the taste Less of the toxins."

But a study by Dr. James F. Pankow of Oregon Health & Science University may snuff out claims by tobacco companies that smoking such newly marketed "potentially reduced-exposure product" (PREP) cigarettes is safer. The study, appearing March 16 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, found that the predicted risks of lung cancer from PREP cigarettes is not meaningfully lower than for the conventional cigarettes that most smokers puff on every day.

The report demonstrates that science does not adequately understand the sources of the cancer effects of smoke from conventional cigarettes. As a result, even if some of the known toxins such as formaldehyde, arsenic, and cadmium are removed from cigarette smoke by the new PREP designs, tobacco companies could not be sure the cancer risks had been lowered to any meaningful degree. The paper states that this makes promises of reduced harm based on such removal "speculative and unverified."

"Despite all the years of research, we can only account for a small percentage of the carcinogenicity of smoking conventional cigarettes," said Pankow, Ph.D., professor in environmental and biomolecular systems at OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering, and a member of the OHSU Cancer Institute.

"People have known for a long time that there are carcinogens in tobacco smoke, but if you look at the levels in conventional cigarettes and expected potency of those known carcinogens, a
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Contact: Jonathan Modie
modiej@ohsu.edu
503-494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
16-Mar-2007


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