Roll-your-own cigarettes as deadly as ready mades

Cancer Research UK

Roll-your-own (RYO) cigarettes expose smokers to similar levels of cancer-causing chemicals as manufactured cigarettes according to a new study by Cancer Research UK now published in Addiction Biology.

In the first study of its kind researchers compared 127 urine samples of smokers who used ready-made cigarettes with 28 samples from RYO cigarette smokers to check the levels of two known cancer-causing chemicals*.

There were no differences in the concentrations of the toxins between manufactured and RYO cigarette smokers even when age, sex, body mass index, puffing behaviour and nicotine exposure were taken into account.

Alarmingly, women had higher concentrations of these toxins irrespective of the cigarette type smoked.

Lead researcher Dr Lion Shahab, from Cancer Research UK's Health behaviour Research Centre based at UCL, said: "Many smokers believe that RYO cigarettes are more 'natural' and therefore are less harmful than manufactured cigarettes. The current findings suggest that this is not the case.

"These findings also show that women in particular accumulate higher concentrations of cancer causing chemicals in their body whether they smoke RYO or manufactured cigarettes."

Elspeth Lee, Cancer Research UK's head of tobacco control, said: "These results further highlight that there's no such thing as a safe cigarette. Hand rolled tobacco is more commonly used by people from lower socio-economic groups, and it is also in poorer communities that smoking rates are highest. It's important that people know that using hand-rolled tobacco may be cheaper but is every bit as toxic as ready made cigarettes.

"Half of all long term smokers will die from the addiction so it is important to continue working to reduce the impact that tobacco has on so many lives. Preventing children from starting smoking is vital. Putting tobacco out of sight in shops and getting rid of vending machines will all help to protect young people from the devastating influence of tobacco marketing. We're calling on parliament to adopt these measures in the new Health Bill."

ENDS

For media enquiries please call the Cancer Research UK London office on 020 7061 8300, or the out of hours' duty press officer on 07050 264059.

References

Shahab, L., West, R., & McNeill, A. (2009). A comparison of exposure to carcinogens among roll-your-own and factory-made cigarette smokers Addiction Biology, 14 (3), 315-320 DOI: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2009.00157.x

Notes to Editor

*polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines

Cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke:

  • Tar - a mixture of dangerous chemicals
  • Arsenic - used in wood preservatives
  • Benzene - an industrial solvent, refined from crude oil
  • Cadmium - used in batteries
  • Formaldehyde - used in mortuaries and paint manufacturing
  • Polonium-210 - a highly radioactive element
  • Chromium - used to manufacture dye, paints and alloys
  • 1,3-Butadiene - used in rubber manufacturing
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - a group of dangerous DNA-damaging chemicals
  • Nitrosamines - another group of DNA-damaging chemicals
  • Acrolein - formerly used as a chemical weapon

Other poisons in cigarette smoke:

  • Hydrogen cyanide - used as an industrial pesticide
  • Carbon monoxide - found in car exhausts and used in chemicals manufacturing
  • Nitrogen oxides - a major component of smog
  • Ammonia - used to make fertilisers and explosives

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