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New Study Indicates Tobacco Industry Was Aware of Their Own Products Dangers

Thu, Sep 29, 2011

Oral Cancer News

Source: USA Today

A new study says tobacco companies knew for decades that cigarette smoke was radioactive and potentially carcinogenic.

Tobacco companies knew for decades that cigarette smoke was radioactive and potentially carcinogenic but kept that information from the public, according to a new study.

The tobacco industry began investigations into the possible effects of these radioactive particles, identified as polonium-210, on smokers as early as the 1960s, says the study by UCLA researchers who analyzed dozens of previously unexamined industry documents.

“I’ve not seen a document before that’s specifically cited the industry’s own internal research finding that sufficient levels of polonium-210 can cause cancer,” says Matt Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He says the study reinforces the need for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to scrutinize tobacco products. This week, the FDA began requiring tobacco companies to disclose detailed information about new products and changes to existing ones. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, suggests the FDA make removal of the radioative particles from tobacco products a top priority. “We used to think that only the chemicals in the cigarettes were causing lung cancer,” said Hrayr S. Karagueuzian, lead author of the study. Now, Karagueuzian said, the industry’s own research shows that polonium-210, absorbed by tobacco leaves and inhaled by smokers, is dangerous. He said UCLA researchers found that the radioactivity could cause 120 to 138 deaths for every 1,000 regular smokers over a 25-year period. Karagueuzian said tobacco companies have declined techniques that could help eliminate polonium-210 from tobacco because of concern that smokers might lose the “instant nicotine rush” that fuels their addiction. David Sutton, spokesman for Philip Morris USA, the largest U.S. tobacco manufacturer, said the company does not add polonium-210 to its products. He said it’s a “naturally occurring element in the air” and has been widely discussed by the public health community for years. Industry critic Greg Connolly, who directs Harvard University’s Center for Global Tobacco Control, agrees that polonium-210′s risks have long been known. He said the study, however, reinforces the need for the FDA to regulate tobacco companies, adding, “The $64,000 question is: have they changed?”

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

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One Response to “New Study Indicates Tobacco Industry Was Aware of Their Own Products Dangers”

  1. Brian Hill Says:

    Really? It’s in the air? What has the tobacco spokesman been smoking besides tobacco? This is utter nonsense.

    It’s in the earth’s crust not in the air. One of the most common places for polonium to concentrate in nature is in tobacco. As the radium in the soil decays, the electrically charged polonium ion adheres to dust particles that accumulate on the hairy underside of tobacco leaves. As the tobacco leaves are dried, the polonium becomes even more concentrated. When the tobacco is smoked the polonium is inhaled and is deposited in the lungs where it decays, emitting alpha particles causing damage to the lung tissue. It is found more in American tobaccos than in those from other countries because we have use phosphate based chemical fertilizers on our soils forever, rather than refresh soil composition through crop rotation in tobacco growing regions.

    So the tobacco companies have known about this for half a century, been found to lie to us under oath about nicotine and other harms, and now they would have us believe that it isn’t in the tobacco but it’s in the air. It’s too bad that big dollars have kept tobacco away from regulation for so long, many lives could have been saved. Those days are hopefully over.


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