Would a medium-nicotine, low-tar cigarette be less hazardous to health?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1981 Nov 14;283(6302):1292-6. doi: 10.1136/bmj.283.6302.1292.


Smoking behaviour and exposure to carbon monoxide, nicotine, and tar were studied in 19 middle-tar smokers. All smoked their own brands for three weeks and then switched to either a conventional low-nicotine, low-tar brand (control) or a medium-nicotine, low-tar cigarette for a further three weeks, the order then being reversed. The medium-nicotine, low-tar brand also had a low delivery of carbon monoxide. With the medium-nicotine, low-tar cigarette mouth-level delivery and intake of nicotine was similar to that with the smokers' usual brands, and significantly greater than with the control low-tar cigarette. Intake of carbon monoxide from the medium-nicotine, low-tar cigarette was significantly less than with either own or control brands. With both low-tar brands mouth-level exposure to tar was reduced relative to smokers' usual cigarettes. There was no evidence, however, that the reduction in tar exposure was greater with the medium-nicotine brand than with the control low-tar cigarette. Both low tar brands were "'oversmoked" relative to subjects' usual middle-tar cigarettes. The medium-nicotine, low-tar cigarette was marginally more acceptable than the control brand, and the particular design used in the study resulted in a lower intake of carbon monoxide. In terms of reducing mouth-level exposure to tar, however, the medium-nicotine, low-tar cigarette had no advantage over the control low-tar product. In part this was because of the ratio of tar to nicotine delivery obtained by human smokers was not the same as that obtained by smoking machine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Female
  • Filtration
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Nicotine / urine
  • Plants, Toxic
  • Smoking*
  • Tars / analysis*
  • Tobacco / analysis


  • Tars
  • Nicotine
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Cotinine