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Today's Cigarettes May Pack More Punch

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, May 19, 2009 12:08 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Cigarettes, Big Tobacco, Tobacco Companies, Philip Morris, Lung Cancer, Nitrosamines, Lung Disease

Dr. David Burns points to the curing process of U.S. tobacco as a possible source of additional nitrosamines, a cancer causer..

Cigarettes Pack More Punch



IMAGE SOURCE:  Dr. David Burns/ San Diego Union Tribune Web site 


Cigarettes of today may pack more punch that lead to a certain type of lung cancer.

Those findings come from researcher, Dr. David Burns, a retired Harvard-educated pulmonologist and professor from the University of California, San Diego, who has published extensively on the science of tobacco and cigarettes.

Professionally, he has also cared for hundreds of smokers injured by cigarettes and smoking, reports the San Diego Union Tribune.

Even though tar has been reduced in cigarettes over the years, Dr. Burns says the risk of developing a certain type of cancer may have doubled.         

There’s been an increase in a lung tumor called adenocarcinoma, making up 65 to 70 percent of newly diagnosed U.S. lung cancers. Meanwhile the same type of cancer makes up no more than 40 percent of lung cancer cases in Australia.

Both the U.S. and Australia switched to low-tar cigarettes around the same time, but cigarettes sold in Australia have 20 percent lower levels of  nitrosamines when compared to U.S. cigarettes.  

The difference may be in the tobacco curing process that’s been in place since the 1950s. In order to speed up the curing process, U.S. tobacco growers use propane heaters and nitrogen fertilizers.  That can lead to the addition of nitrosamine carcinogens in tobacco. 

In Australia, the tobacco is allowed to air cure. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports there are 47 known carcinogens in cigarette smoke.

Dr. Burns studied four decades of smoking data on different age groups, looking at how much individuals smoked, when they started and when they quit.

While the risk of squamous cell carcinoma has stayed the same over the years, adenocarcinoma rates have risen.   

Philip Morris (Altria) is working with growers to yield lower levels of nitrosamines, says spokesman David Sutton to Associated Press. 

Tobacco companies accuse Dr. Burns of being an anti-smoking activist and they question the timing of his research release. 

Tobacco Bill

The information comes as Congress faces an upcoming vote on a tobacco bill, which passed the House last month. The bill would put tobacco regulation under control of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which could regulate additives in tobacco. 

Sen. Edward Kennedy introduced the Senate version, which faces a filibuster from senators from tobacco- growing states when it comes up for a vote next month.

Dr. Burns says with 400,000 Americans dying every year from smoking, it’s crucial for the government to regulate how cigarettes are made. 

“If we could reduce the risk by half of that – 25 percent – that's 100,000 lives a year,” he said. “The tools exist. This evidence shows why you should use them,” he tells the Union Tribune. 

Dr. Burns released his findings in Dublin, Ireland, at a meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. He plans to publish in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington advocacy group, has been promoting his work to journalists. #

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