Light Cigarettes as Harmful as Regular Ones


Smoking light or ultra-light cigarettes in hopes of reducing your risk of lung cancer actually does nothing for your health. A new study conducted by the University of Minnesota Cancer Center found that ultra-light and light cigarettes are just as unhealthy as regular smokes.

The study measured a body’s intake of nicotine and cancer-causing agents by people who smoke regular, light, and ultra-light cigarettes by testing their urine for carcinogens. Among the 175 participants, the study found no significant difference in their intake of cancer-causing agents or nicotine. It is the first study to compare the intake of lung carcinogens in smokers of all types of cigarettes.

So for those who believe that they are at less of a risk for lung cancer because they smoke lighter cigarettes, they have been misled. It just isn’t true. No cigarette is better for you than another–they are all bad for your health.

Ultra-light and light cigarettes don’t end up being any less harmful because of the way people smoke. Those who prefer lighter cigarettes might smoke their cigarettes differently than smokers of regular cigarettes. They might inhale more deeply, inhale more often, cover the filter ventilation holes, or smoke more cigarettes than users of regular cigarettes.

The bottom line is that no cigarette is good for you, and it’s vital that you quit. A consistent body of data has shown that quitting smoking is the only way to reduce your chances of getting lung cancer. The number of lung cancer cases has dropped over the past 30 years, exactly mirroring the decline in smoking in the United States since the 1960s.

Studies have shown that taking these five steps–and using them together–improve your chances of quitting smoking for good:

1. Get ready. Set a quit date and get rid of all your cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters.
2. Get support. Tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you are going to quit and ask for their support. Request that they not smoke around you or leave cigarettes out.
3. Learn new skills and behaviors. Distract yourself from urges to smoke by going for a walk, talking to someone, or getting busy with a task. Change your routine. If you used to have a cigarette with your morning cup of coffee, drink tea or eat breakfast elsewhere. Reduce your stress or learn new ways to handle stress.
4. Get medication and use it correctly. There are many medications that can help reduce the cravings for cigarettes, such as the nicotine patch, gum, nasal spray, lozenge, and inhaler. A prescription drug called Buproprion SR also is available. These medications will double your chances of quitting for good.
5. Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations. Most relapses happen in the first three months after quitting. Some major triggers are alcohol, other smokers, weight gain, and depression.

Don’t be discouraged if you start smoking again. Most people must try quitting several times before they finally quit. For assistance and support, call the Minnesota Quit Plan (1-888-354-PLAN).

Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., is the Wallin professor of cancer prevention and Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., is the Forster Family professor of cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center ( ). This column is an educational service of the University of Minnesota. Advice presented should not take the place of an examination by a health-care professional. For more health-related information, go to