Cancer-Causing Agents Higher in Some U.S. Cigarettes

Some U.S. cigarette brands contain higher levels of some cancer–causing chemicals than some foreign brands.

Researchers found higher levels of tobacco–specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), the major carcinogens and cancer–causing agents in tobacco products, in some U.S. brands compared with Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. 

The TSNAs were found in cigarette butts that had been smoked, and then compounds related to the breakdown of TSNAs were found in the smokers' urine.

“We know that cigarettes from around the world vary in their ingredients and the way they are produced,” said Dr. Jim Pirkle, deputy director for science at the National Center for Environmental Health, Division of Laboratory Sciences. “All of these cigarettes contain harmful levels of carcinogens, but these findings show that amounts of tobacco–specific nitrosamines differ from country to country, and U.S. brands are the highest in the study.”

The findings, announced today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preention, are detailed in the June issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.

The U.S. cigarette brands studied contained “American blend” tobacco, a specific mixture of tobacco from the U.S. that contains higher TSNA levels. The  Australian, Canadian, and U.K. cigarette brands were made from “bright” tobacco, which is lighter in color and flue–cured.  Changes in curing and blending practices could reduce U.S. smokers’ exposure to one type of cancer–causing compound; however, this would not necessarily result in a safer product. 

Such research help identify the different levels of  harmful chemicals to which people are exposed as a result of smoking different types of cigarettes, according to a CDC statement.