Flavour filters hit market as women's lung cancer deaths soar

Kathryn Barnsley, The Mercury, Hobart
18 Jan 2018

New squeeze balls inside cigarettes give smokers a rush of taste, explains Kathryn Barnsley

THE tobacco industry has unleashed a new form of deadly filters, designed to create a fast addiction in children, adolescents and young adults.

The filters have a “squeeze ball” of flavour, such as menthol, built into the filter, and designed to be crushed to give the smoker a rush of taste. These are called menthol capsules.

In Australia, 52 per cent of young smokers aged 12 to 17 have tried these cigarettes with specially engineered filters. We know that more women are dying of lung cancer, because they were lured into smoking so-called light cigarettes that they thought were safer.

There has been a 46.5 per cent increase in women undergoing lung cancer surgery between 2010 and 2015, in contrast to a 30.5 per cent rise for men. In addition, the number of women dying each year from lung cancer has soared by 36.3 per cent over the past decade, to 3716 deaths in 2016, while the rise is less dramatic for men at 9.3 per cent.

The Surgeon-General has condemned the tobacco industry for its engineering of cigarettes, particularly filter ventilation.

Cigarette engineering is the reason why people are more likely to die of lung cancer from smoking modern cigarettes, than those manufactured in the 1960s. Cigarettes are deadlier than they have ever been. And the reason is filters, and filter engineering. Filter ventilation is how the light cigarette fraud was perpetrated.

Ninety per cent of Australian cigarettes have vented filters. Vented filters have tiny holes to include fresh air with each puff. It makes the cigarette taste easier on the throat, lulling the smoker into a false sense that the cigarette is safer. It isn’t. It is deadlier.

The vented filter gets rid of the larger carcinogens, and lets the smaller ones through into the lungs. The smaller carcinogens then cause cancers in the small airways of the lungs.

These cancers are more likely to kill. The mortality rate for adenocarcinomas is higher than for other cancers of the lung. Now we have a raft of new engineering inventions from the tobacco industry since the plain packaging was introduced in 2012.

New menthol capsule products, other novel flavourings; recessed and firm filters (so the smoker cannot see the dirty brown inside of the filter which might remind her of what is going into her lungs), evocative and descriptive product names, new super-value products and extra-long and slim cigarettes.

In 2015 Bill King from the Victorian Cancer Centre said in the Conversation that, “It’s time for the government to ban filter ventilation to reduce the palatability of cigarettes.”

Dr King’s colleagues Michelle Scollo and others in the British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control in September 2017 recommended that authorities should “ban features such as menthol capsules and filter innovations that provide novelty value or that may provide false reassurance to smokers”.

Our hospital system cannot cope with rising lung cancer operations and smoking caused illness. Last year more than 500 Tasmanian families spent Christmas mourning a loved one they had lost to a tobacco related illness.

I am pleased to announce that on my recommendation, and supported by health groups, the Tasmanian Labor Party has committed to developing a comprehensive community awareness campaign that cigarettes with filters are unsafe; to expose the actions of the tobacco industry, which has engineered new addictive palatable filters to target children; and to strongly advocate nationally through health ministers’ meetings to regulate filters, cigarette content and cigarette engineering.

Dr Kathryn Barnsley is an adjunct researcher at the University of Tasmania School of Medicine, an expert in tobacco control and has been published in medical journals. She is a Labor candidate for Franklin at the state election

Source: The Mercury | News and Opinion