7

They are advertised as low tar or low nicotine. The assumption is that they are therefore less bad for your health.

In general: Nicotine value ranges from 0.1 to 1.1 mg. Tar value ranges from 1 to 14 mg.

  • 2
    This may not be especially well developed, and people may be disgruntled about the fact that someone is smoking at all, by I for one think it's a really interesting question. I'll try an answer unless somebody beats me to it. – Susan Jun 17 '15 at 4:11
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    I'm with Susan. My guess is that it could have been a language problem - some people will see "healthy" as a positive attribute only and not a comparative scale extending from healthiness to unhealthiness. So I edited the title, maybe this will reduce the downvotes. – rumtscho Jun 17 '15 at 8:52
  • <comments removed> Please do not answer questions in comments. They can not be properly vetted here, and there is not space here to appropriately cite references. If you have an answer, post it. – Susan Jun 17 '15 at 23:08
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Probably yes on lung cancer, no for other diseases, but it's really hard to say.

Apparently, this 'trend' isn't very new - it goes back to the 1960s, though back then low-tar cigarettes contained more tar than you specify in your question. The National Cancer Institute has a looong monograph on this with data from the past decades: Risks Associated with Smoking Cigarettes with Low Machine Measured Yields of Tar and Nicotine. I am not even going to pretend I read all of that.

The chapter Smoking Lower Yield Cigarettes and Disease Risks is in itself 94 pages long, but is summarized in the paper Health impact of “reduced yield” cigarettes: a critical assessment of the epidemiological evidence.

Apparantly, it's not very clear-cut, the primary problem being that there's so many confunders when looking at epidemiological (population-based) data:

  • smokers who choose to smoke cigarettes with less tar/nicotine might be more concerned about their health in general
  • smoker who choose to smoke cigarettes with less tar/nicotine 'compensate' by smoking more, see the linked paper where figure 2 illustrates that lower nicotine content often corresponds with a higher amount of cigarettes smoked. This is often ignored in studies by matching subjects by number of cigarettes smoked (so they compare people who smoke 10 high-yield cigarettes a day with those who smoke 10 low-yield cigarettes a day)

From the conclusions, emphasis mine:

Epidemiological studies have not consistently found lesser risk of diseases, other than lung cancer, among smokers of reduced yield cigarettes. Some studies have found lesser risks of lung cancer among smokers of reduced yield cigarettes. Some or all of this reduction in lung cancer risk may reflect differing characteristics of smokers of reduced-yield compared to higher-yield cigarettes.

Now, the National Cancer Institute is not generally a fan of cigarettes, so they are probably going to recommend against low-tar/nicotine cigarettes in any case. It does seem to be the case that if the number of cigarettes is kept constant, the risk of lung cancer decreases with tar content. The same is not necessarily the case for other risks, like that of coronary heart disease, stroke, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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