If you thought regular cigarettes are unhealthy, wait until you hear what’s inside their counterfeit counterparts.
There are several reasons why counterfeit “smokes” are just a plain no-no—they’re illegally manufactured, often imported from foreign countries, such as China or Paraguay, and there’s a lack of quality control and regulation of them.
And now a team of researchers from the Department of Sciences at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York added one more reason to the list—they’re bad for you.
This research group set out to study these cigarettes with one goal in mind—provide more accurate data for assessing their impact on one’s health.
“Counterfeit cigarettes constitute a significant crime and public health problem,” Yi He, associate professor of chemistry at John Jay College told R&D Magazine after her session presentation at Pittcon in Atlanta last month titled Elemental Profile of Tobacco Used in Counterfeit Cigarettes. “Information on the elemental profile, especially toxic elements such as lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd), offers insight into the potential public health impact of consuming counterfeit cigarettes and the technology used by counterfeiters in the illicit cigarette trade.”
The researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and CUNY, including Fidelis Tan, Ye Hua, Victoria Mei, Marin Kurti, Klaus von Lampe, and Carrie Green along with Rufus Chaney of Agricultural Research Service (USDA), studied the elemental profile in counterfeit cigarettes that was provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after being seized by the law enforcement agency. The 13 elements they researched in the cigarettes included: As, Ca, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Ni, P, Pb and Zn.
According to academic research presented at the session, a tobacco plant is particularly efficient in accumulating cadmium from the soil and translocating most of the metal to the leaves. Cadmium is the prime focus for this particular investigation of potential toxic effects.
The group analyzed 46 counterfeit samples, including 22 Newport, six Marlboro Red and 18 Marlboro Light brands, as well as six genuine cigarettes. The researchers used inductively coupled plasma – atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) analysis after conducting two methods of pretreatment—microwave digestion and dry ashing. While both methods obtained acceptable results, microwaving had higher recovery results, according to Yi He.
The research team’s study concluded that there were much higher concentrations of toxic heavy metals consistently found in counterfeit cigarettes that were seized in the U.S. compared to genuine brands.
“Any investigation into the harmful effects of commercial tobacco products should take consideration of the potential differences between genuine and counterfeit products,” Yi He concluded. “Use of counterfeit cigarettes potentially adds more risks to smokers.”
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