5 December 2019

People have been talking about tar in cigarettes for a long time, yet “What is tar?” is a question often asked today, and there are many myths surrounding the topic. The above video discusses a few of these myths about tar and what it really is.

Tar is the weight of solid and liquid residue in cigarette smoke, after nicotine and water have been removed. It’s not an added chemical nor the material used to pave roads, it’s simply a weight measurement.

So, is tar measurement useful? If we only take the weight into account, no it’s not. Out of context, the weight gives no indication of residue content nor the risk or harm because the level of toxicants within that weight are unknown, and the World Health Organization (WHO) agrees, “While several Parties include tar in their regulatory policies, it is not on the priority list of toxicants in tobacco smoke emissions, as the composition of tar varies qualitatively and quantitatively in each type of product, limiting the possibility for validated testing and measurement.

Put another way, the WHO says, “Tar need not be measured, as it is not a sound basis for regulation, and the levels can be misleading.

When people consider the risk or harm of a product in relation to tar it’s more important to look at the content rather than its weight. When we look at the content of cigarette smoke, there are thousands of chemicals released and of those, the FDA has listed 93 known toxicants. It's these chemicals, not the tar measurement, that are linked to smoking-related diseases.

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