Harm-reduction cigarettes; remedy worse than disease

December 9th, 2008 - 4:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 9 (IANS) So called “harm-reduction cigarettes”, promoted by tobacco companies, are actually a remedy worse than disease.A University of California Riverside (UCR) study now shows that smoke from these “light” or “low-yield” cigarettes remains toxic that can affect prenatal development.

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

Talbot’s research team used mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) as a model for pre-implantation embryos - embryos that have not yet implanted in the wall of the uterus -and compared the toxicity on these cells of cigarette smoke emanating from traditional and harm-reduction brands.

Further, they studied the effects on the mESCs of two kinds of cigarette smoke: mainstream smoke, which is smoke actively inhaled by smokers; and sidestream smoke, which is smoke that burns off the end of a cigarette.

They found that both kinds of smoke from traditional and ‘harm-reduction’ cigarettes can retard growth or kill embryonic cells at this stage of development, according to an UCR release.

Equally surprising was their discovery that mainstream smoke and sidestream smoke from harm-reduction cigarettes are more potent than the corresponding smoke from traditional brands of cigarettes.

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

“Talbot’s work significantly enhances our understanding of the harmful effects of smoking on very early pregnancy,” said Olga Genbacev, senior scientist in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UC San Francisco, who was not involved in the research.

The results are slated for January publication in Human Reproduction.

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