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‘Safer’ Cigarettes As Lethal As Traditional Brands For Embryos

December 17, 2008

So-called harm-reduction cigarettes pose the same threat to developing embryos as traditional cigarettes, according to a report published by Dr. Prue Talbot of the University of California, Riverside and her colleagues in the journal Human Reproduction.

Her team concluded that smoke from these harm-reduction cigarettes may be more dangerous than traditional brands.

“Many chemicals found in harm-reduction cigarette smoke have not been tested, and some are listed by manufacturers as safe,” said Talbot, a professor of cell biology who led the study.

“But our tests on mice clearly show that these chemicals adversely affect reproduction and associated development processes. The effects are likely to be the same in humans, in which case pregnant women would be particularly vulnerable to the effect of smoke from these cigarettes.”

Using embryonic stem cells from mice, researchers compared the toxicity of cigarette smoke emanating from traditional and harm-reduction brands.

They observed four different concentrations of smoke from Marlboro Reds and three harm-reduction brands: Marlboro Lights, which have multiple tiny holes placed in the filter to reduce the amount of smoke inhaled; Advance cigarettes, which are treated to reduce certain carcinogens; and Quest, a nicotine-free cigarette.

They also observed both mainstream smoke, which is inhaled through the cigarette by smokers, as well as sidestream smoke, which comes from the end of a lit cigarette.

At all concentrations, and in both sets if experiments, all four types of cigarette smoke impaired the cells’ ability to attach, and the higher the concentration, the stronger the effect.

“This result was unexpected since harm reduction brands purportedly have lower concentrations of toxicants,” Talbot said.

She added that no woman of reproductive age should actively smoke cigarettes, and should also try to stay away from strong concentrations of second-hand exposure.

“This study for the first time sends a clear message to nonsmoking women of reproductive age who are planning to become pregnant that they must avoid exposure to sidestream smoke,” said Olga Genbacev, a senior scientist in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Francisco, who was not involved with the study.

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