Nov. 5, 1998 BUFFALO, NY - There is no such thing as a "safe" cigarette, concludes Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) investigators, whose comprehensive analysis of one "safer cigarette" appears in today's issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
In studies of Eclipse, a new nicotine-delivery device produced and test-marketed by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, John L. Pauly, PhD, of the Department of Immunology, and his RPCI colleagues discovered that the "cigarettes" were contaminated with glass fibers, fragments and particles, that, when inhaled and/or ingested, may pose an additional health risk to users.
The researchers observed glass fibers on and within all parts of Eclipse, including its tip, wrapping and tipping papers, and in pack residue. In one study, they discovered that up to 95% of the Eclipse filters were contaminated with between five and 55 glass fibers. "Glass pollution of the filter of Eclipse was widespread, collective and continuous," according to Pauly. "In contrast, glass fibers were never observed on the filters of conventional United States cigarettes used as controls."
The researchers found an average of 7,548 thin and fragile glass fibers as well as numerous fiber fracture items (particles, fragments, bits, chips, flakes, specks, dust) in pack residue.
The culprit, say the researchers, appears to be the high-speed, multiple-step manufacturing process used to make Eclipse. However, regardless of what produces the thin, glass fibers, "our studies document glass fiber contamination of the filter and substantiate with reasonable certainty that glass fibers would be inhaled and/or ingested when Eclipse is smoked as intended," Pauly maintains.
The association of fibrous glass and cancer has been addressed by other investigators from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Duke University Medical Center and OSHA. These examiners analyzed animal and human data and declared "that fibrous glass materials are carcinogenic..." and concluded "...that on a fiber-per-fiber basis, glass fibers may be as potent or even more potent than asbestos."
Nicotine-delivery devices -- gum, patches, etc. - have been developed by the pharmaceutical industry over the past 10 years to wean smokers from their addiction to nicotine, while protecting them from the more than 3,000 dangerous chemicals found in cigarette smoke, and reducing environmental tobacco smoke. These products have been tested extensively, and their safety and effectiveness have been demonstrated to the Food & Drug Administration before introduction. In fact, at first, these products were available only through a physician's prescription.
To keep pace, R. J. Reynolds began to market test Premier, one of several smoking devices that resembled conventional cigarettes but, unlike conventional cigarettes, was designed to heat, rather than burn, tobacco. "The purpose of these 'heat but not burn prototypes' was to simplify the chemical composition and reduce the biological activity of the mainstream and sidestream smoke and to significantly reduce environmental tobacco smoke, while delivering nicotine to its users," according to Pauly. Premier performed poorly in the marketplace and was soon replaced by Eclipse.
In the Eclipse design, the chemical changes in tobacco are reduced by a carbon fuel rod that, when ignited, heats reconstituted tobacco to generate a low-smoke, nicotine-containing aerosol that has a tobacco flavor. The carbon rod at the end of the "cigarette" is insulated and bound with two wrapping mats of glass fibers. These mats secure the position of the carbon fuel rod, insulate the burning rod and direct heat from the rod to the adjacent tobacco column. "The breakdown of these glass fiber mats is the major problem in this nicotine-delivery device that has a cigarette-like appearance," explains Pauly.
Dr. Pauly and his colleagues conclude that, "Eclipse is the paradigm of the health danger that may be imposed by technically complex tobacco articles and nicotine-delivery devices promoted by an unregulated industry to smokers worldwide, many of whom are addicted to nicotine and who seek a less hazardous cigarette."
Roswell Park Cancer Institute was founded in 1898, is the nation's first and one of its largest cancer research, treatment and education centers, and is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Western New York.
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