Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Updated Data for Nicotine, Tar, and CO Content Of Domestic Cigarettes

As I mention on my main smoking page, the last published report on the tar, nicotine, and CO content of cigarettes appears to have been Tar, Nicotine, and Carbon Monoxide of the Smoke of 1294 Varieties of Domestic Cigarettes For the Year 1998. According to an article at http://freegovinfo.info/archive/200608, the last report was released in September 1999 and the Federal Trade Commission has continued collecting data on nicotine but has not published reports on the findings. However, I recently came across data for 2006 and 2007 in a report titled 2006 and 2007 Tar, Nicotine, and Carbon Monoxide Reports which was released under the Freedom of Information Act on May 15, 2012. I've compiled and sorted the data from 2007 and posted links to it on my main smoking page.

Underneath those links, I added a link to the previous data from 1994. The reason for this was to allow someone to compare the 1994 and 2007 data and get an idea of how much the numbers had changed for any specific brand. Then they could judge how much the numbers might have changed since 2007. For example, the following table shows the change in the numbers for Carlton:


--  ---  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  --------
07* 0.1     1     1    85  F     HP    ULTRA-LT
07* 0.1     1     2    85  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
07  0.1     1     1   100  F     HP    ULTRA-LT
94        <.5  <.05
07  0.1     1     1   100  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94  0.2     2     3                    LT
07  0.5     5     3   120  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94                4                    LT

* no change from 1994
The table shows that the strength of 85mm (Kings) Carltons have not changed at all. For the 100s hardpack, the tar and CO content have gone up from the very low level that they were measured in 1994 but the nicotine level is the same. Conversely, the strength of the 100s softpack has about halved and has been relabeled from "Light" to "Ultra-Light". It would appear that the strength was purposely lowered to more closely match the strength of the Kings and 100s hardpack. However, the 120s softpack remains about five times as strong as the Kings and 100s.

Following is similar data for brands of Now and Merit which existed in both 1994 and 2007:

        CHANGE IN NOW FROM 1994 TO 2007

--  ---  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  --------
07  0.2     1     2    84  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94  0.1                               (not listed)
07  0.3     3     4   100  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94  0.2     2     3                   (not listed)

       CHANGE IN MERIT FROM 1994 TO 2007

--  ---  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  --------
07* 0.2     1     3    84  F     SP    ULTIMA
07  0.4     5     6    84  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94  0.5
07  0.3     2     4    99  F     SP    ULTIMA
94  0.2           5  
07* 0.5     5     7    99  F     SP    ULTRA-LT

* no change from 1994
In all of the tables above, a blank value for 1994 indicates that it is the same as for 2007. In any case, the 1994 and 2007 data can be compared in a similar way for other brands to judge how much they have changed over time and are likely to have changed since 2007.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

When will the FDA Publish the List of Harmful Constituent in Tobacco?

On May 7th, I sent the following email to AskCTP@fda.hhs.gov, the address listed for general inquiries on the FDA Tobacco Products page.

To Whom it may Concern:

According to the Timeline of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act at http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm237395.htm, the following was to be done by April of 2013:

Publish the list of harmful and potentially harmful constituents in a format that is understandable and not misleading to the lay public

– Sec. 904(a)(3)25, 904(d)(1)26, 904(e)27

If this has been done, can you tell me where it was published (the online location if available)? If not, can you tell me when it is planned to be published?

The same day, I got the following reply:

Thank you for your email. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA an extraordinary opportunity to improve the health of all Americans, whether they use tobacco or not. One of the goals of the law is to improve consumer understanding of tobacco products and their related harms, as tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States.

Part of the law requires FDA to publicly display information about harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs), chemicals in tobacco products and tobacco smoke that cause harm, or could cause harm, to users and non-users. FDA is required by law to provide this information to the public, including the amount of each chemical present in specific brands and sub-brands of tobacco products, in a way that is understandable and not misleading by April 1, 2013.

FDA was unable to make this information available by the April deadline, but will do so once the Agency is confident that the information is accurate, understandable and not misleading to the public. Currently, the Agency is still evaluating the data it has received from manufacturers, including verifying its accuracy. In addition, FDA is planning to conduct scientific studies to assess consumer understanding of how the Agency presents information about HPHCs. Upon completion of these important activities, FDA intends to publish the HPHC information so that consumers can make more informed decisions about tobacco products.


Center for Tobacco Products

Food and Drug Administration

CTP Call Center: 1-877-CTP-1373 www.fda.gov/tobacco

Nearly identical comments were made in an FDA response to a news reporter posted at this link. Also, googling the phrase "once the Agency is confident that the information is accurate, understandable and not misleading" turns up several other references to this action.

So when does the FDA intend to "publish the HPHC information so that consumers can make more informed decisions about tobacco products"? They do say that they are "still evaluating the data it has received from manufacturers, including verifying its accuracy". This sounds like it could conclude at any time. However, they also say that they are "planning to conduct scientific studies to assess consumer understanding of how the Agency presents information about HPHCs". This implies that the studies have not even started so it doesn't sound like this will be finished any time soon.

As mentioned at this link, you could find recent figures for the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris on their website until late 2008. An explanation for their removal can be found on this page. Following is an excerpt:

On November 26, 2008, however, the FTC rescinded its 1966 guidance. In support of its decision, the FTC stated that, "there is now a consensus among the public health and scientific communities that the Cambridge Filter Method is sufficiently flawed that statements of tar and nicotine yields as measured by that method are not likely to help consumers make informed decisions."

As with the FTC before it, the FDA seems to feel that it is better that people have no information about the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes than that they have imperfect information by which they might be misled. This seems like a questionable policy to me, treating people like children who "can't handle the truth". To be fair to the FDA, this may be because the law itself says that the list of constituents is to be published "in a format that is understandable and not misleading to the lay public". In any event, if anyone should hear any information on when or where this information is to be published, please leave a comment here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Should the FDA Lower Nicotine in Cigarettes?

On June 17, 2010, the Washington Post printed a story titled "FDA should use its power to lower nicotine in cigarettes, former chief says". Following is an excerpt:

David A. Kessler, a former FDA commissioner, said Wednesday that the agency's efforts to date are laudable but "marginal" compared with what the agency has the legal authority to do -- reduce nicotine levels to the point where a smoker no longer craves cigarettes.

"If you do this, you can save 200,000 to 300,000 lives a year," Kessler said. "Everything else pales in comparison."

The Washington Post story is referenced by an allgov.com post titled "Is It Time to Limit Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes?". The first comment to this post begins as follows:

We need to be extremely careful here. While the one year-old Family Smoking Prevention Act forbids the FDA from "requiring the reduction of nicotine yields of a tobacco product to zero," common sense screams that unless the reduction is as close as possible to zero, that smokers will compensate by smoking more cigarettes harder, sucking the smoke deeper and holding it longer.

The remainder of this post contains my response to this statement:

Screaming common sense sometimes turns out to be a screaming misconception. About twenty years ago, I was smoking Kool Mild cigarettes and I bought a book titled "Switch Down & Quit: What the Cigarette Companies Don't Want You to Know About Smoking", by Dolly D. Gahagan. The book gives a method for stopping smoking that involves switching to a slightly lighter brand of cigarette every three weeks or so. I explain it more fully at http://www.econdataus.com/smoke.html. As the book predicted, I did compensate somewhat when I initially switched to a lighter brand. This was especially true for the most difficult switch from 0.3 milligrams nicotine and 3 milligrams tar to 0.1 milligrams nicotine and 1 milligrams tar. But also as the book predicted, I adjusted to every switch within a week or two and slipped back to my old habits as far as the number of cigarettes that I smoked. I also believe that I slipped back to sucking the smoke to the same depth and for the same length of time. What I do know is that the first time that I tried Carltons (0.1 milligrams nicotine and 1 milligrams tar), it was like sucking on air. When I finally switched down to them and adjusted, however, they did taste like normal cigarettes.

Now this method may not work for many people. In fact, when I finally did quit, I had the additional motivation that my company had gone smokeless and I could no longer smoke in the office. However, I did feel as though I had relatively little physical withdrawal when I quit. In fact, it seemed like I had more physical withdrawal when I made the difficult switch described above. I did still have to deal with the strong psychological addiction but I believe that the relatively weak physical addiction made quitting easier. Also, switching down did give me the confidence that I did not NEED a certain level of nicotine and that my body could adapt to a lower level (or, eventually, none at all).

A 2007 story on the Journal of the National Cancer Institute titled "Can Reducing Nicotine Help Wean Smokers?" suggests that, at the very least, the charge that smokers will fully compensate for drops in nicotine is questionable. It states:

If you remove nicotine from tobacco and do it gradually, it may be possible to reduce nicotine dependence, so when adolescents first start smoking, they won't become addicted," he says. But the data appear to point in contradictory directions. Some show that when people smoke lower-nicotine "light" cigarettes, they take bigger, longer puffs. Yet other studies show that sometimes people do not inhale more to compensate when their cigarette has less nicotine.

This suggests that we need to depend on careful research and open debate, not screaming common sense.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Can Low-Tar Cigarettes Aid in Quitting Smoking?

A google search of "low-tar cigarettes" results in numerous matches, the majority of which appear to be negative on their usefulness, saying that they are no less hazardous than regular-tar cigarettes. In fact, some of the matching articles suggest that switching to low-tar cigarettes halves the chance of quitting smoking. However, this conclusion is contradicted by some other studies such as this one which states the following:

Smoking and health experts have been concerned that reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes would lead to smoking a greater number of cigarettes and therefore increased exposure to other tobacco smoke toxins, as is seen in smokers of the currently marketed low-nicotine yield cigarettes, Benowitz said. The new research on reduced-nicotine content cigarettes strongly counters that prediction.

Another article, titled "Could FDA reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes?", states the following:

Another strategy might be to reduce the harm from tobacco by lowering the nicotine content/delivery of cigarettes down to the level at which they are no longer addictive. A form of this strategy was proposed in the 1990’s by leading tobacco researchers Professor Neal Benowitz, and Professor Jack Henningfield. The FDA legislation singles out nicotine as the only chemical that cannot be reduced to zero, but this allows FDA the right to reduce the nicotine delivery of tobacco products down to a level just above zero at which they would no longer be addictive.

Hence, there does seem to be some disagreement on the subject. This disagreement may have played some role in the FTC ceasing to release reports on the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes. This Boston Globe article describes this as follows:

The Federal Trade Commission for three decades regularly released reports on the nicotine and tar content of cigarettes -- reports that frequently came under criticism for failing to adequately reflect the amount of nicotine smokers inhale in actual use.

The reports showed that nicotine levels on average had remained stable since 1980, after falling in the preceding decade. The last of those studies was released in September 1999, commission spokeswoman Claudia B. Farrell said yesterday.

The Federal Trade Commission has continued collecting data on nicotine, but she did not know why they have not published reports on the findings.

This brings up the question of whether the FTC should have continued to release this data to the public, even if the data was less than perfect. In any event, this is now the responsibility of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Section 915 of the recently passed Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act states the following:

(2) may require that tobacco product manufacturers, packagers, or importers make disclosures relating to the results of the testing of tar and nicotine through labels or advertising or other appropriate means, and make disclosures regarding the results of the testing of other constituents, including smoke constituents, ingredients, or additives, that the Secretary determines should be disclosed to the public to protect the public health and will not mislead consumers about the risk of tobacco-related disease.

From the above excerpt, the law appears to give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to require tar and nicotine content to be included in advertisements and on package labels but does not mandate that this will occur. Likewise, it does not appear to mandate the disclosure of tar, nicotine, and other ingredients to the public but leaves this to the discretion of the Secretary. Hence, it is unclear as to if or when updated tar and nicotine figures will be released to the public.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


This blog is connected with the web site at http://www.econdataus.com/smoke.html. The main purpose of that web site is to provide information on the nicotine, tar, and CO content of domestic (U.S.) cigarettes. Most e-mails that I have received have contained questions or information that would likely be useful to other people interested in this topic. Hence, the main purpose of this blog is to provide an open forum for such questions and information.