In particular, U.S. cigarettes have more TSNAs, or tobacco-specific nitrosamines, than foreign made cigarettes. TSNAs are the major cancer-causing substance in tobacco.
Paging Dr. Gupta reports:
"The cigarettes smoked by the study recruits represented some of the more popular brands for each country including: Players light and DuMaurier in Canada; Marlboro, Newport Light, Camel Light in the U.S.; Peter Jackson and Peter Stuyvesant in Australia; and Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut Purple in the United Kingdom."
If you're a smoker in the United States, you may be inhaling three times the cancer-causing chemicals with every puff compared to a smoker in Canada or Australia.
The extra TSNAs, or tobacco-specific nitrosamines (the major cancer-causing substance in tobacco), in U.S.-made cigarettes are likely the result of different tobacco types, the curing process and fertilizers used to grow the tobacco -- all can influence the cigarettes' TSNA levels.
To put it simply, Americans are smoking far deadlier cigarettes than are found in many other parts of the world.
What Makes U.S. Cigarettes Particularly Deadly?
Nitrosamines are a chemical byproduct of tobacco processing, and they're known to cause cancer. Levels vary significantly in different cigarettes in part due to curing practices. American cigarettes tend to contain "burley tobacco," which is higher in TSNAs, while brands in other countries contain "bright" tobacco, which is not only lighter in color but also lighter in nitrosamines.
In Australia, for instance, cigarettes contain just 20 percent of the nitrosamine content of U.S. cigarettes.
Cigarette design may also be impacting the amount of carcinogens you inhale, as when filtered lower-tar cigarettes were introduced, it caused changes in the way smokers inhale, namely causing them to inhale smoke more deeply into their lungs.
Perhaps as a result of this design change, U.S. cases of adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer that grows in small air sacs deep in your lung, have been rising more so than in Australia. Researchers say adenocarcinoma makes up 65 percent to 70 percent of newly occurring U.S. lung cancer cases, but only up to 40 percent of Australia's lung cancer.
In fact, up to half of U.S. lung cancer cases may be due to those design changes, and the resulting increase in nitrosamines, according to researcher Dr. David Burns of the University of California, San Diego.
The solution, however, is not to simply switch to foreign brands of cigarettes. Cigarettes actually contain over 4,000 different chemicals in all, and all of them have varying degrees of toxicity. This latest study only looked at two of them, so there's no guarantee that non-U.S. cigarettes could be considered "healthier" when taken as a whole.
Tobacco is a Heavily Sprayed Crop
Remember, too, that the tobacco in cigarettes is typically not organic and therefore is loaded with toxic pesticides. More than 25 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on tobacco crops in the United States each year, making tobacco the sixth highest out of all agricultural crops in terms of the amount of pesticides applied per acre, the General Accounting Office and CBS News reported.
The pesticides used in tobacco production have been linked to cancer, nervous system damage and birth defects, so when you volatilize these by lighting the cigarette, these chemicals can cause far more damage than the actual tobacco.
There is also a lack of oversight in regulating how much pesticide residue may be left in a cigarette. GAO reported:
"While EPA regulates the specific pesticides that may be used on tobacco and other crops and specifies how the pesticides may be used, it does not otherwise regulate residues of pesticides approved for use on tobacco.
USDA, however, is required by the Dairy and Tobacco Adjustment Act to test imported and domestic tobacco for residues of pesticides not approved by EPA for use on tobacco that federal officials believe are used in other countries."
What this means is that no one is testing for residues of EPA-approved pesticides in cigarettes, despite their potential to cause serious damage to smokers and non-smokers alike.
For this reason, if you are going to smoke it would be best to use organic cigarettes that are free from these toxic chemicals and pesticides.
What's in a Cigarette?
To give you an idea of the types of toxic chemicals released into the air and your lungs when you smoke or are around someone who does, here's a list from the American Lung Association of a few chemicals in tobacco smoke, and other places they are found:
- Acetone – found in nail polish remover
- Acetic Acid – an ingredient in hair dye
- Ammonia – a common household cleaner
- Arsenic – used in rat poison
- Benzene – found in rubber cement
- Butane – used in lighter fluid
- Cadmium – active component in battery acid
- Carbon Monoxide – released in car exhaust fumes
- Formaldehyde – embalming fluid
- Hexamine – found in barbecue lighter fluid
- Lead – used in batteries
- Napthalene – an ingredient in moth balls
- Methanol – a main component in rocket fuel
- Nicotine – used as insecticide
- Tar – material for paving roads
- Toluene - used to manufacture paint
As you probably already know, regularly inhaling these chemicals is not a wise choice if you want to stay healthy.
Aside from the risk of the cigarettes themselves are the potentially infectious bacteria they may contain. Research has shown that cigarettes are "widely contaminated" with bacteria, including some known to cause disease in people.
This may explain why smokers' respiratory tracts tend to contain higher levels of disease-causing bacteria. Of course, this may also be a symptom caused by weakened immunity, which is also common in smokers.
Smoking Will Probably Cut Your Life Short
Nearly 21 percent of U.S. adults smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, these people will die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
By now most everyone knows that smoking can increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, and other serious diseases. But looking at it from a different angle, the impact it can have on an individual life, may put this habit into a different perspective. According to the CDC:
- Smoking increases the length of time people live with a disability by about two years.
- For every person who dies of a smoking-related disease, 20 more people suffer with at least one serious illness from smoking.
The American Cancer Society even reports that smoking cigarettes kills more Americans each year than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined, while other research has shown that just by smoking one pack of cigarettes:
- A smoker's life is cut short by two hours
- Men lose a total of 4.4 years of their life
- Women lose a total of 2.4 years of their life
There are also economic factors to consider. Annually, cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion ($97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in health care expenditures), according to the CDC, while secondhand smoke costs more than $10 billion in health care expenditures.
These risks have not gone unnoticed, as 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit completely, while more than 40 percent try to quit each year. Ideally, the best way to quit smoking is to never start in the first place. Unfortunately, however, the CDC reports that 1,000 kids under 18 become regular smokers every day.
Ready to Kick the Habit? Do This First …
In my experience there is a great deal of confusion surrounding aggressive stop-smoking recommendations. Most experts advise this as a primary recommendation and pay little attention to a person's diet.
This is unfortunate, as when most people stop smoking they tend to reward themselves with bad food choices as a substitute for their cigarette addiction. As a result they can easily gain a lot of weight.
Obesity has been associated with higher rates of chronic medical problems and a poorer quality of life than smoking, so it is not a wise trade.
If you are currently overweight or obese AND a smoker, I strongly suggest you work on improving your diet and achieving your ideal weight BEFORE you attempt to quit smoking.
Let me make myself crystal clear, I do NOT recommend smoking and I suggest quitting to be optimally healthy (and for the health of those who live with you).
But even if you're not overweight, my advice is the same -- get your nutritional program on track first, then tackle the cigarettes.
Eat for your nutritional type, eliminate sugar and grains, and make sure to consume adequate amounts of omega-3 fats. These three powerful steps in the right direction will put you well on your way to good health.
Tips for Quitting Cold Turkey
Once your lifestyle is healthy, the best and safest way to quit smoking is cold turkey. Research shows that in the long run, smokers who quit cold turkey do better than those who used "helps" like nicotine gum, the patch, or quit-smoking drugs. These drugs, in particular, are a very bad idea, as some have life-threatening side effects.
The dietary improvements mentioned above will go a long way toward helping you give up nicotine. Good nutrition will minimize feelings of depression you may encounter when you quit smoking, and you'll feel healthier in general, which can help motivate you to stick with your stop smoking program.
Because cigarette addiction has been shown to be associated with depression, I highly recommend you read my free online Emotional Freedom Technique/Meridian Tapping Technique manual to discover how this remarkable psychological acupressure technique can help you break the habit and also deal with feelings of depression.
If you're the parent of an adolescent, you need to also take an active role in ensuring your child never picks up that first cigarette. Research indicates a young person's brain can be more responsive to nicotine, starting with the very first inhale from a cigarette.
The behavior of adolescents changed with their first puff, indicating a heightened sensitivity to the pleasurable effects of the drug. This could explain why teenage smokers continue the habit into adulthood and have a harder time quitting than smokers who start later in life.
So while leading by example and not smoking yourself, make sure you talk to your children and teenagers about the health risks of smoking and the importance of not smoking even one cigarette, as they could get hooked the first time they try it.