Cigarette characteristic and emission variations across high-, middle- and low-income countries

Public Health. 2010 Dec;124(12):667-74. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2010.08.018. Epub 2010 Oct 28.


Objectives: The public health burden of tobacco use is shifting to the developing world, and the tobacco industry may apply some of its successful marketing tactics, such as allaying health concerns with product modifications. This study used standard smoking machine tests to examine the extent to which the industry is introducing engineering features that reduce tar and nicotine to cigarettes sold in middle- and low-income countries.

Study design: Multicountry observational study.

Methods: Cigarettes from 10 different countries were purchased in 2005 and 2007 with low-, middle- and high-income countries identified using the World Bank's per capita gross national income metric. Physical measurements of each brand were tested, and tobacco moisture and weight, paper porosity, filter ventilation and pressure drop were analysed. Tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide emission levels were determined for each brand using International Organization for Standardization and Canadian Intensive methods. Statistical analyses were performed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences.

Results: Among cigarette brands with filters, more brands were ventilated in high-income countries compared with middle- and low-income countries [χ(2)(4)=25.92, P<0.001]. Low-income brands differed from high- and middle-income brands in engineering features such as filter density, ventilation and paper porosity, while tobacco weight and density measures separated the middle- and high-income groups. Smoke emissions differed across income groups, but these differences were largely negated when one accounted for design features.

Conclusions: This study showed that as a country's income level increases, cigarettes become more highly engineered and the emissions levels decrease. In order to reduce the burden of tobacco-related disease and further effective product regulation, health officials must understand cigarette design and function within and between countries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Developed Countries*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Poverty
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Tobacco Industry
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / statistics & numerical data


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Nicotine
  • Carbon Monoxide