Waking a sleeping giant: the tobacco industry's response to the polonium-210 issue

Am J Public Health. 2008 Sep;98(9):1643-50. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.130963. Epub 2008 Jul 16.


The major tobacco manufacturers discovered that polonium was part of tobacco and tobacco smoke more than 40 years ago and attempted, but failed, to remove this radioactive substance from their products. Internal tobacco industry documents reveal that the companies suppressed publication of their own internal research to avoid heightening the public's awareness of radioactivity in cigarettes. Tobacco companies continue to minimize their knowledge about polonium-210 in cigarettes in smoking and health litigation. Cigarette packs should carry a radiation-exposure warning label.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Radioactive / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants, Radioactive / analysis
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Organizational Policy
  • Polonium / adverse effects*
  • Public Relations
  • Publishing*
  • Research Support as Topic*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco / adverse effects
  • Tobacco / chemistry*
  • Tobacco Industry / ethics*
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Tobacco Industry / organization & administration
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • United States


  • Air Pollutants, Radioactive
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Polonium