December 7, 2007
FIRE-SAFE CIGARETTE INGREDIENTS
By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst
You want to know the ingredients in fire-safe cigarettes and whether any state has analyzed their health effects.
We were unable to find a source that identifies the ingredients (additives) in fire-safe cigarettes. The two major cigarette manufacturers we contacted (Phillip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds) post cigarette ingredient lists on their websites, but they do not distinguish between ingredients in fire-safe and conventional cigarettes.
As far as we were able to determine, none of the more than 20 states that have passed fire-safe cigarette legislation conducted any studies of the health effects of the additives in fire-safe cigarettes. But an oft-cited Harvard School of Public Health study found very little difference between the toxicity of fire-safe and conventional cigarettes.
COMPREHENSIVE SMOKING EDUCATION ACT
The 1984 federal Comprehensive Smoking Education Act requires anyone who manufactures, packages, or imports cigarettes to annually provide the Health and Human Services Department with a list of cigarette ingredients. It also authorizes the department to research and report annually to Congress (as deemed appropriate) on the health effects of cigarette ingredients and provide information about any ingredient that poses a health risk to cigarette smokers. The department has delegated this responsibility to the Center for Disease Control Office on Smoking and Health, which has been collecting cigarette ingredient reports since 1986. Under the law, all the information the office collects is considered a trade secret and cannot be disseminated to the public (15 USC § 1335a).
Hundreds of ingredients are used in the manufacture of tobacco products, according to a 2000 U.S. surgeon general's report.
[A]dditives make cigarettes more acceptable to the consumer; they can make smoke seem milder (and easier to inhale), prolong shelf life, prolong burning, and improve taste. These additives may be a single chemical used as a humectant or a complex mix of chemicals used as a flavorant (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Reducing Tobacco Use: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2000, p 182).
According to the report, the six major cigarette manufacturers reported a combined total of 599 ingredients as of 1994 (id at p. 182). We were unable to locate a more current Health and Human Services Department cigarette ingredients report, but R.J. Reynolds has listed on its webpage what it describes as the list of ingredients submitted by tobacco companies to the department in 2003. The list does not distinguish between fire-safe and conventional cigarettes. The site also shows the ingredients used in R.J. Reynolds cigarettes by brand (http://www.rjrt.com/cgi-bin/FileSearch.exe?Command=Search&Search=cigarette+ingredients&submit1=Search).
Phillip Morris posts a list of ingredients used in all its cigarette brands. The company also posts a composite list of tobacco and flavor ingredients (125) and a composite list of 'non tobacco component” (approximately 140) used in its brands. According to Phillip Morris, “not all ingredients are present in each brand and no brand contains all the ingredients.”
The reason we have chosen to provide a composite list [of tobacco and flavor ingredients] rather than a by-brand list is because this list consists primarily of flavors which, when combined in a unique proprietary manner, give each brand its own unique flavor, taste and aroma. By providing this information as a composite list including quantities not exceeded and the function of the ingredient, we have tried to strike a reasonable balance between providing detailed information about our ingredients and protecting our proprietary brand recipes from disclosure to competitors (http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/product_facts/ingredients/ingredients_in_cigarettes/brand_by_brand_ingredients.asp).
Like R.J. Reynolds, Phillip Morris does not distinguish between ingredients used unfire-safe and conventional cigarettes.
FIRE-SAFE CIGARETTE TOXICITY
In 2005, the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study to determine the effect of the New York fire-safe cigarette law “on ignition propensity, smoke toxicity, and the consumer market.” It compared several brands of fire-safe cigarettes from New York with conventional brands from Massachusetts.
With regard to cigarette toxicity, the study concluded that:
the majority of toxic compounds (14) tested were not different between New York and Massachusetts brands. Five compounds were slightly higher in New York brands. There is no evidence that these increases affect the already highly toxic nature of cigarette smoke (“Fire Safer” Cigarettes: The Effect of The New York State Cigarette Fire Safety Standard On Ignition Propensity, Smoke Toxicity, and The Consumer Market, January 24, 2005, p.1).
A copy of the report is available at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2005-releases/press01232005.html. For more information on fire-safe cigarettes, see OLR Report 2007-R-0154.