It appears that a large section of the population mistakenly believes that they’re doing their bodies a favor by smoking “light cigarettes” instead of the standard product. Yes, you read that right, mistakenly. In fact, smoking these types of cigarettes actually gets in the way of people’s attempts at butting out for good.
Also known as “lights,” “mild,” “ultra-light,” or “low-tar” cigarettes, these claim to have lower levels of tar and nicotine, and are not all that they promise to be. The lower numbers of toxic ingredients (yes, nicotine and tar are toxic) you see on the product label are produced in tests with “smoking machines.” The fact that it’s a machine that’s testing the different brands of cigarettes is what causes the misleading numbers, as human beings obviously smoke a lot differently than a metal contraption would.
For example, a light cigarette has tiny vents on the filter, which are supposed to help dilute the smoke and the toxic ingredients (this is what makes a cigarette light, not its actual contents). This venting system works when the machine is puffing away, however, when a person smokes, he/she often covers these holes with his/her fingers or lips, meaning that the ingredients go straight into the body.
Another difference between the machine and the human smoker is that the person is vulnerable to the physical effects of nicotine and can therefore experience cravings. This means that a person might inhale more rapidly, more often, more deeply, or smoke more light cigarettes each day (especially since they’re under the impression that the lights aren’t as potent as the regular product).
When taking these two factors into account, it seems likely that a light-cigarette smoker is getting the full toxic effects of the cigarette, so the person might as well be smoking a regular one. Obviously, the numbers are skewed in favor of the monolithic tobacco industry.
In addition to what we already know a new study has now shown that smoking these light cigarettes actually deters smokers from quitting — contrary to what many smokers believe.
The researchers took data from the U.S. 2000 National Health Interview Survey. They looked at current and former smokers who had used a light-cigarette brand to reduce the risks of smoking to their health. Out of 12,285 people who had ever smoked, 37% had tried the lights. Of the subjects who had never smoked light cigarettes, 53% had quit the habit, compared to 37% amongst those who had used the “milder” brands.
That’s a significant gap — enough to support the worries that marketing cigarettes as light could be totally misleading to consumers, causing them to make misinformed health decisions.
So, to review, cigarettes labeled as light pose the same threat to your health as regular ones do. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no such thing as a safe cigarette. Moreover, this latest study shows that light cigarettes don’t aid you in quitting, as some people might think they do.
In fact, these cigarettes dupe you into thinking that they’re not as bad for you, which means that you let your guard down and often smoke more than you would with regular cigarettes. This will make you less likely to quit. The only way to avoid the dangers associated with smoking (such as lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart attack, and stroke) and to live a longer, healthier life, is to quit the habit altogether.