Study Questions Merit of ‘Safer’ Cigarettes

New research concludes that Omni cigarettes, promoted as containing 50 percent less of cancer-causing substances, may not be effective in reducing a smoker’s chance of developing cancer, Reuters reported June 2.

For the study, researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis had 54 smokeless-tobacco users switch to Swedish snus or the nicotine patch, and 51 smokers switch to Omni cigarettes or the nicotine patch.

The research, led by Dr. Dorothy Hatsukami, found that smokers who switched to Omni cigarettes had only a 20-percent reduction in carcinogens. Those who switched to snus also had a small decline in carcinogens. Nicotine patch users had the greatest reduction in carcinogens in their bloodstream.

“Does that 20 percent difference really translate to reduced cancer risk? We’re not sure,” said Hatsukami.

She added that “reduced-exposure” cigarettes may also discourage smokers from trying to quit. According to Hatsukami, if smokers think cigarettes with fewer carcinogens are safe, “they’ll maintain their smoking rather than make a concerted effort to quit. The best way to reduce your risk of disease is still quitting smoking.”

The study appears in the June 2, 2004 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.