Low-tar cigarettes: bane or benefit

Cancer Detect Prev. 1987;10(3-4):187-92.


Modern cigarettes are generally low in tar (which includes many toxic products) and nicotine although not always in carbon monoxide delivery. The natural experiments available to epidemiologists, however, have not shown a very positive reduction in mortality that can be attributed to the lowering of tar. Campaigns by public health bodies have sometimes appeared to be effective in persuading the tobacco industry to lower tar generally (for example, Australia), but such low tar campaigns have been used by the tobacco industry to promote smoking itself and to sell the view that the habit is not as dangerous as it was (for example, U.K.). Outside the U.S., there has been very little advertising that features tar content. Comparisons made in sophisticated countries may not be relevant to developing countries. The matter of tar delivery by Third World smoking products needs attention. There is little argument that cigarettes should be lower in tar. There is, however, argument as to whether an optimal dose of nicotine reward is needed in order to prevent the development of compensatory smoking habits. There is also argument as to how the levels of tar and other toxic constituents in cigarettes should be lowered. Legislation and taxation are probably better weapons than public health advertising campaigns.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Mouth Neoplasms / etiology
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Plants, Toxic
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking*
  • Tars*
  • Tobacco


  • Tars
  • Nicotine
  • Carbon Monoxide