Tiny Holes in Cigarette Filters Increase Cancer Risk Study Finds

It’s no secret that smoking is one of the most unhealthy habits a person can acquire, leading to an increased risk for cancer, heart disease and a host of other long-term health problems.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and is responsible for one in five deaths each year in the United States.  That’s more than the deaths attributed to HIV, drug and alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries and firearm incidents combined.

But what is surprising is new research that has found the filters on cigarettes, thought to reduce the amount of tar inhaled, may actually increase the risk for developing lung cancer.  A study from The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, has found that the tiny holes in a cigarette filter may change how tobacco burns, making smoking even more dangerous.  Once only used on “light” cigarettes, filters are now used on all cigarettes and because the smoke is smoother, smokers inhale more smoke increasing the rates of lung cancer among smokers.

The study, published May 22 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that the increased ventilation and slower tobacco burn as the result of tiny holes in cigarette filters results in smokers inhaling more cancer-causing chemicals.  The filters also delivers smoke with smaller particles into “vulnerable” parts of the lung, reports Reuters.

The holes do not, however, lower the amount of tar inhaled and since the addition of filters to cigarettes in the 1950’s, although smoking rates have declined, the rates of lung cancers associated with smoking (adenocarcinoma of the lung) among smokers has more than quadrupled in men and increased by eight times in women.

A similar study, published in the BMJ in 2002 had similar findings to this more recent study; “smokers can take false comfort from a lighter taste and a consoling name…smokers continue to die at an undiminished rate.”

The study authors support an immediate ban on filter ventilation, but not filters, to help protect public health.   To read the full study visit the Journal of the National Cancer Institute by following this link.