Sadly reminiscent of the pollutant emission scandal that rocked the automotive world, cigarette manufacturers are legally required to do everything in their power to reduce tar and carbon monoxide levels in their cigarette smoke. Recently, the Dutch public health institute (RIVM) published a study that revealed a flaw in the system.
Indeed, the ISO standard, a method to dose nicotine in cigarette smoke, may not be as reliable as it seems. This proves that the tests performed do not adequately measure the potential danger of tobacco smoke. As a result, cigarette packs sold in the European Union may turn out to have more harmful ingredients than the law permits.
The CNCT had already discussed this issue a few months ago. It seems the recent study has confirmed their fears.
Cigarette filters at the heart of the issue
The study focused on micro-perforations in the cigarette filters. These holes are necessary to ensure tobacco smoke blends with air. However, it appears that for most smokers these holes are plugged by their fingers, whereas tests leave them unblocked. According to RIVM, which has ties to the Dutch Ministry for Health, a great deal more nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide are inhaled by smokers than is allowed legally.
A hundred or so cigarette brands were tested with the “Canadian Intense” method, which covers all holes in the filter. Only a single brand was found to be compliant with the law. For the others, tar levels were found to be 2 to 26 times greater than the European legal limit. When it comes to nicotine and carbon monoxide, the levels were 2 to 17 times the limit, and 2 to 20 times the limit, respectively.
The results proce that ISO testing methods are not reliable, and allow illegal levels of these harmful substances to be absorbed by smokers’ lungs. The RVIM concluded that the commission that developed this method was most likely influenced by the tobacco industry and its substantial funds.