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Low-tar cigarettes don't reduce cancer chances

Nov 14, 2006 | The myth: Low-tar cigarettes are less hazardous to your health than regular cigarettes.

The truth: Low-tar cigarettes, often labeled "light" or "ultra light," do not reduce your chances of developing lung cancer, research led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found. The National Cancer Institute agrees.

Tar is the sticky, brown residue condensed from the chemicals in cigarette smoke. It coats the lungs and contributes to lung cancer and other lung diseases.
The MIT study, from 2004, analyzed lung-cancer deaths and cigarette brands used among more than 940,000 smokers.

Regardless of the amount of machine-measured tar in their brand, all had a far greater risk of lung cancer than people who had never smoked or had quit, physician and MIT Professor Jeffrey Harris said when he released the study.

His team's research also found that the dangers for people who smoked cigarettes with very low tar (7 milligrams or less) and low tar (8-14 mg) were indistinguishable from those who smoked medium-tar cigarettes (15-21 mg).

Besides, smokers of light cigarettes don't necessarily decrease their tar intake, other studies have found, because they tend to inhale deeper and take more puffs to get a bigger hit of nicotine.

"The only proven way to reduce risk is to quit as soon as possible," Harris said.

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