Does Increased Cigarette Consumption Nullify Any Reduction in Lung Cancer Risk Associated with Low-Tar Filter Cigarettes?

Authored by  PN Lee*, EB Sanders

Published in Inhalation Toxicology     
* This author is not affiliated with PMI.


Epidemiological data suggest that smoking filter and lower tar cigarettes is associated with less lung cancer risk than is smoking plain and higher tar cigarettes. A recent National Cancer Institute monograph claimed these apparent benefits of lower delivery products may be illusory if relative risks are adjusted for daily consumption, and switching leads to “compensation” for reduced nicotine intake by increasing numbers of cigarettes smoked. To investigate this, we compared relative risks unadjusted and adjusted for daily cigarette consumption. Overall estimates of the filter/plain relative risk, using random-effects meta-analysis, were 0.61 (95% confidence interval 0.54 to 0.70) for unadjusted data and 0.66 (0.58 to 0.76) for adjusted data. The lower tar/higher tar relative risk was estimated as 0.60 (0.45 to 0.81) for unadjusted data and 0.73 (0.64 to 0.83) for adjusted data. The risk reductions were clearly seen regardless of gender, study location, period, or design, and when only studies providing both unadjusted and adjusted estimates were considered. Whether or not relative risk estimates are adjusted for cigarette consumption is not crucial to the conclusion of a clear advantage to filter cigarettes and tar reduction. Data on “compensation” for amount smoked were reviewed and any increase following switching to reduced-tar-yield cigarettes was shown to be quite small. Other biases in the epidemiology are also discussed, and we conclude that the apparent advantage to reduced-tar-delivery products is real and likely to be a marked underestimate of the reduction in lung cancer risk from lifetime smoking of low-tar cigarettes.