- A US company says it has found a way virtually to remove
major cancer-causing substances from tobacco.
- The carcinogens are tobacco-specific nitrosamines, known
to be tumour initiators.
- The company, Star Scientific, of Virginia, says it can
reduce the nitrosamines to very low or undetectable levels during the tobacco
curing process, using special barns.
- But it has found little interest from cigarette manufacturers
in adopting its technology.
- Star Scientific's co-founder, Jonnie Williams, told BBC
Radio Four's environment programme, Costing the Earth, how he made the
- "I was forced into it. I was trying to make a chewing
gum with tobacco in it as a flavouring.
- Unsuspected problem
- "The toxicologist called me up one day and said:
'There's a real problem I've got to break to you.'
- " 'There's something we didn't know about called
nitrosamines, and they're carcinogenic as hell. This is never going to
- "And I said: 'Well, that's simple. Don't get excited.
We'll just find a way to take them out.' "
- Asked if the tobacco companies themselves could have
solved the nitrosamine problem, Mr Williams replied: "They're in the
business of selling cigarettes.
- "I'm in the business of selling reduced-risk products
to compete with them."
- He said he had been looking for the solution, and perhaps
the companies "hadn't looked hard enough - or at all."
- Smoking is estimated to kill 120,000 people annually
in the United Kingdom, and four million globally.
- The campaign group ASH - Action on Smoking and Health
- says the latest data suggest that each cigarette shortens the smoker's
life by 11 minutes.
- It says continued smoking is estimated to mean a one
in two chance of dying prematurely. But it believes those odds could improve
to one in three or even four.
- Complex problem
- Clive Bates of ASH said: "We think the companies
could bring down the harm caused by a cigarette if they wanted to."
- Dr Adrian Paine, of British American Tobacco, told Costing
the Earth: "The industry is working hard to innovate and produce products
with lower risk.
- "But it's by no means easy. We're dealing with a
very complex issue here. We don't want to raise hopes unduly.
- "If you are a smoker and you are concerned about
the risks of smoking, which are real and serious, then the way of dealing
with that is to quit."
- But the programme was told by a clinical psychologist,
Dr Martin Jarvis, that cigarettes are simply a means to an end, a delivery
system for nicotine, which is an addicitive drug.
- Dr Jarvis, who works for the Imperial Cancer Research
Fund, said the industry had done as little as needed to be done to satisfy
- The Labour MP David Hinchliffe chairs the House of Commons
- He told Costing the Earth: "The tobacco companies
could have been in a position, had they shared their information, to perhaps
move the health debate forward in a quite radical way.
- "But of course it wasn't in their interest to do
so. It was in their interest to do absolutely nothing about this.
- "The tobacco industry has been fairly well represented
in the decision-making process in Parliament.
- "I think there is clear evidence that it has been
able to obstruct efforts that have been made to address known health problems."
- SIGHTINGS HOMEPAGE
Site Served by TheHostPros