Editorials

Publishing tobacco tar measurements on packets

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7470.813 (Published 07 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:813
  1. Nigel Gray ([email protected]), scientist,
  2. Peter Boyle, director
  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69008 Lyon, France
  2. International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69008 Lyon, France

    Figures for tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide are misleading and should be removed

    Admitting mistakes can be difficult, correcting them even harder. Labelling cigarette packets with tar yields (plus nicotine and carbon monoxide) was, and is, a mistake. The mistake was not in the conception of the low tar programme, or even in conducting it as a huge experiment with public health. The error was allowing the tobacco industry to control it.

    The tar delivery of cigarettes is routinely measured with a machine and, with the exception of the United States, stated on the packet as a legal requirement in almost every country in the world. It is accompanied by measurement of nicotine and often carbon monoxide.

    These measurements are now recognised to be misleading for two reasons, as is the simplistic concept of tar as a substance.1 2 w1 Firstly, human smoking patterns vary greatly and are not mimicked by the machine. Secondly, modern cigarette design facilitates compensatory smoking (over-inhalation), which may lead to the smoker taking in much greater amounts of …

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