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NSW Public Health Bulletin archive

The impact of low-tar cigarettes Volume 15 Issue 5-6

Bernard Stewart

New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 15(6) 108 - 110 Published: 2004

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Bernard Stewart


It seemed like a change for the best at the time. The
change involved a progressive decrease, from the 1960s
onwards, in the tar yield from cigarettes. The tar yield was
readily measured using smoking machines. A firm basis
existed for anticipating that a reduced yield of tar from
cigarettes would result in a reduced incidence of lung
cancer in people smoking them. So health authorities,
including Cancer Councils in Australia, monitored the
tar yield of cigarettes on the local market. In 1976, Wynder
and Hoffman recorded that the average tar content of
cigarettes in the United States fell from 31 to 24 mg per
cigarette during the period 1958–1969. However the
prediction that smoking cigarettes with a reduced tar yield
would result in a lower rate of lung cancer has not
occurred. What went wrong? This article examines the
development of ‘low tar cigarettes’, the physiology of
nicotine dependence, the carcinogenic compounds
contained in tobacco smoke and how these factors
combine to ensure that smoking ‘low tar cigarettes’ does
not result in a reduced risk of lung cancer.