Airy approach to holes

| August 2, 2017

The EU Commission is keeping a watching brief on the question of ventilation holes in cigarette filters; so, as things stand, nothing will happen before 2021 at the earliest.

In May, an article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that the US Food and Drug Administration should consider regulating cigarette filter ventilation, up to and including a ban.

It further suggested a research agenda to support such an effort.

A short background to the article said that filter ventilation was adopted in the mid-1960s and was initially equated with making cigarettes safer. But since then, lung adenocarcinoma rates had paradoxically increased relative to other lung cancer subtypes.

Filter ventilation was said to alter tobacco consumption in such a way as to increase smoke toxicants. It was said to allow for elasticity of use so that smokers inhaled more smoke to maintain their nicotine intake. And it was said to cause a false perception of lower health risk from ‘lighter’ smoke.

This led to questions being raised in the EU parliament.

In a preamble to their questions, the Dutch MEP, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, and the Belgian MEP, Frédérique Ries, said that, on May 29, the Dutch national newspaper ‘de Volkskrant’ had reported that ventilation holes in cigarettes contributed to an increasing risk of ‘adenocarcinoma’, the most common form of lung cancer.

‘Research from the National Cancer Institute in the US shows a connection between the perforated filter and an increase in this specific type of cancer,’ they said.

‘Based on the findings of the research institute, the ventilation holes in cigarettes could pose a new threat to public health.

‘Moreover, these ventilation holes mislead the measuring equipment that is developed to detect harmful substances in cigarettes.

‘Experts have therefore requested a strict ban on ventilation holes.’

Gerbrandy and Ries went on to ask whether the Commission was aware of the potential health risk of ventilation holes in cigarettes and whether the Commission had taken any action or investigated the issue at an earlier stage?

‘Based on the research findings, does the Commission believe that the European standards for cigarette components and the measurement methods, which are developed to detect harmful substances in cigarettes, should be adapted?,’ they asked.

‘Has the Commission envisaged other steps to further investigate the issue and does the Commission intend to update the current Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) based on the findings of this research?’

In its written answer, the Commission said it was aware of the risk of the use of ventilation holes by tobacco manufacturers to lower measured values of tar, nicotine and CO emissions (TNCO), such as in so-called “light cigarettes”.

‘Branding such cigarettes as “light, “mild” or “ultra-light” had been shown to mislead consumers since they do not have health benefits for smokers. As a result, the Commission banned such descriptors on cigarette packages in 20011. Instead, TNCO were required to be indicated,’ the Commission said.

‘However, as these values were found not to reflect the actual emissions during intended use, the revised Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU2 discontinued TNCO labelling on cigarette packs.

‘In absence of a gold standard and for the purpose of regulatory continuity, the International Organization for Standardization methodology continues to be used for emission measurement. However, Article 4 of the Tobacco Products Directive gives the Commission delegated power to adapt the measurement methods, based on scientific and technical developments or internationally agreed standards.

‘The Commission and the member states have discussed measurement methods in the Expert Group on Tobacco Policy on several occasions. By 2021, the Commission will report on the application of the Tobacco Products Directive. If appropriate and based on the findings of the report, proposals for amending the directive may be foreseen.’

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Category: Breaking News, Filters, Harm reduction, Regulation

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