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Stanford University School of Medicine

False advertising? “Natural” cigarettes are bad for nature, Stanford researchers say

zhilkooleg-14989A trio of Stanford researchers has published an editorial in Tobacco Control, criticizing the makers of a brand of cigarettes for claiming to be environmentally friendly.

The cigarettes are anything but Earth-friendly, argue the three Stanford authors — Anna Epperson, PhD, Judith Prochaska, PhD, and Lisa Henriksen, PhD. They write:

In reality, biospheric values are entirely incompatible with smoking cigarettes of any brand. Mass production of tobacco involves significant environmental costs, including deforestation. Cigarette butts are the leading form of litter globally, have a slow rate of decomposition and release toxic chemicals that are harmful to mammals, insects and marine life. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, at least 250 of which are known to be harmful (ie, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide), and second-hand smoke is a leading cause of poor indoor air quality. In addition, a growing literature on third-hand smoke indicates that volatile organic compounds and carcinogens remain in carpet, upholstery and on other surfaces.

The percentage of Americans who smoke has plummeted since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health was published in 1964. In those days, more than half of all men and a quarter of all women smoked. Today the figure is close to just 15 percent. Despite that decline, smoking is still the leading preventable cause of premature death.

Yet despite steep declines in smoking and financial setbacks for the tobacco industry — not least a successful legal settlement between the tobacco industry and state attorneys general in the 1990s — the industry continues to aggressively market tobacco products in the United States.

Reynolds America, which makes Natural American Spirit cigarettes, advertises the cigarettes as “additive-free” and “organic.” The packages feature Native American style motifs as well as advertising slogans such as “Earth-Friendly Tobacco.” The manufacturer is accused of false advertising in an going class action suit and has also been warned by the Food and Drug Administration to stop using the phrases “additive free” and “natural.”

Epperson and her co-authors call for education campaigns that will call public attention to the environmental damage of smoking and cigarette litter.

Previously: Everything adolescents should know about the dangers of tobacco, Group urges ban on methol-flavored tobacco, which is marketed to African Americans and How e-cigarettes are sparking a new wave of tobacco marketing
Photo by Олег Жилко

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