Nicotine, Tar, and CO Content of Domestic Cigarettes in 2007

Using Tables to Switch Down and Quit Smoking

A method that uses these tables to quit smoking is described in the book "Switch Down & Quit: What the Cigarette Companies Don't Want You to Know About Smoking", by Dolly D. Gahagan, published in 1987. The method is to switch to a slightly lighter brand of cigarette every three weeks or so. The author suggests that you not switch faster than you feel comfortable with.

First, look up the strength of your current brand in the appropriate table (regular or menthol) sorted by brand name and type. Then use the table sorted by nicotine, tar, and CO to select progressively lighter brands to switch to. The author suggests that, if you are now smoking a regular-strength cigarette (1.0 to 2.1 milligrams nicotine), you drop at the rate of 0.3 mg of nicotine and 3 mg of tar until you reach 1.0 mg nicotine. Then drop at 0.2 mg of nicotine at a time until you get to 0.4 mg of nicotine. Finally, drop by only 0.1 mg nicotine at a time until you get to 0.1 mg of nicotine or lighter. Continue with the lightest brand until you are ready to quit.

NOTE: As indicated following each table, the source for the numbers is the 2006 and 2007 Tar, Nicotine, and Carbon Monoxide Reports, released under the Freedom of Information Act on May 15, 2012. As far as I know, the last published report on the tar, nicotine, and CO content of cigarettes was Tar, Nicotine, and Carbon Monoxide of the Smoke of 1294 Varieties of Domestic Cigarettes For the Year 1998. According to an article at http://freegovinfo.info/archive/200608, the last report was released in September 1999 and the Federal Trade Commission has continued collecting data on nicotine but has not published reports on the findings.

In any event, anyone using the tables should check the numbers against the most recent available source. Until late 2008, you could find even more recent figures for the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris on their website. An explanation for their removal can be found on this page. Following is an excerpt:

On November 26, 2008, however, the FTC rescinded its 1966 guidance. In support of its decision, the FTC stated that, "there is now a consensus among the public health and scientific communities that the Cambridge Filter Method is sufficiently flawed that statements of tar and nicotine yields as measured by that method are not likely to help consumers make informed decisions."

Whichever source you use, be careful to note the precise brand and packaging as the content can vary widely in similar varieties. For example, the tables for regular (non-menthol) cigarettes indicate that Carlton 120s have about five times the tar and nicotine content of 85s (Kings) and 100s.

Comparing the Data from 1994 and 2007

Underneath the links to data from 2007 above, I've included a link to the previous data from 1994. The reason for this is to allow anyone to compare the 1994 and 2007 data and get an idea of how much the numbers had changed for any specific brand. Then they can judge how much the numbers might have changed since 2007. For example, the following table shows the change in the numbers for Carlton:

      CHANGE IN CARLTON FROM 1994 TO 2007

YR  NIC   TAR    CO   LEN  FLTR  PACK  STRENGTH
--  ---  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  --------
07* 0.1     1     1    85  F     HP    ULTRA-LT
07* 0.1     1     2    85  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
07  0.1     1     1   100  F     HP    ULTRA-LT
94        <.5  <.05
07  0.1     1     1   100  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94  0.2     2     3                    LT
07  0.5     5     3   120  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94                4                    LT

* no change from 1994
The table shows that the strength of 85mm (Kings) Carltons have not changed at all. For the 100s hardpack, the tar and CO content have gone up from the very low level that they were measured in 1994 but the nicotine level is the same. Conversely, the strength of the 100s softpack has about halved and has been relabeled from "Light" to "Ultra-Light". It would appear that the strength was purposely lowered to more closely match the strength of the Kings and 100s hardpack. However, the 120s softpack remains about five times as strong as the Kings and 100s.

Following is similar data for brands of Now and Merit which existed in both 1994 and 2007:

        CHANGE IN NOW FROM 1994 TO 2007

YR  NIC   TAR    CO   LEN  FLTR  PACK  STRENGTH
--  ---  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  --------
07  0.2     1     2    84  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94  0.1                               (not listed)
07  0.3     3     4   100  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94  0.2     2     3                   (not listed)

       CHANGE IN MERIT FROM 1994 TO 2007

YR  NIC   TAR    CO   LEN  FLTR  PACK  STRENGTH
--  ---  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  --------
07* 0.2     1     3    84  F     SP    ULTIMA
07  0.4     5     6    84  F     SP    ULTRA-LT
94  0.5
07  0.3     2     4    99  F     SP    ULTIMA
94  0.2           5
07* 0.5     5     7    99  F     SP    ULTRA-LT

* no change from 1994
In all of the tables above, a blank value for 1994 indicates that it is the same as for 2007. In any case, the 1994 and 2007 data can be compared in a similar way for other brands to judge how much they have changed over time and are likely to have changed since 2007.

Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

On June 22 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This new law empowers the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oversee and regulate all tobacco products that are sold in the United States.

The actual text of of the law makes a number of references to tar and nicotine content. Following is an excerpt from Section 904:

(1) Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a listing of all ingredients, including tobacco, substances, compounds, and additives that are, as of such date, added by the manufacturer to the tobacco, paper, filter, or other part of each tobacco product by brand and by quantity in each brand and subbrand.

(2) A description of the content, delivery, and form of nicotine in each tobacco product measured in milligrams of nicotine in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary in accordance with section 4(e) of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.

The recipient of the listing of all ingredients is stated to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The following excerpt from Section 206 addresses the discloser to the public of tar and nicotine content in advertisements or on the package labels:

(1) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall, by a rulemaking conducted under section 553 of title 5, United States Code, determine (in the Secretary’s sole discretion) whether cigarette and other tobacco product manufacturers shall be required to include in the area of each cigarette advertisement specified by subsection (b) of this section, or on the package label, or both, the tar and nicotine yields of the advertised or packaged brand.

More on this topic can be found in the following is an excerpt from Section 915:

(2) may require that tobacco product manufacturers, packagers, or importers make disclosures relating to the results of the testing of tar and nicotine through labels or advertising or other appropriate means, and make disclosures regarding the results of the testing of other constituents, including smoke constituents, ingredients, or additives, that the Secretary determines should be disclosed to the public to protect the public health and will not mislead consumers about the risk of tobacco-related disease.

From the above excerpts, the law appears to give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to require tar and nicotine content to be included in advertisements and on package labels but does not mandate that this will occur. Likewise, it does not appear to mandate the discloser of tar, nicotine, and other ingredients to the public but leaves this to the discretion of the Secretary. Hence, it is unclear as to if or when updated tar and nicotine figures will be released to the public.

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