Scientists develop healthier cigarette

Posted by Emma Woollacott

As many of us realise that, yet again, our New Year's resolutions have gone up in smoke, Cornell University researchers say they can make cigarettes safer.

They say their tests show that the natural antioxidant extracts lycopene and grape seed extract, when added to a cigarette filter,  drastically reduce the quantity of cancer-causing free radicals passing through.

Although free radicals aren't the only cancer-causing element of tobacco - tars don't do your lungs much good either - they are considered a major one.

"The implications of this technique can help reduce the hazardous effects of tobacco smoke, because free radicals are a major group of carcinogens, " says author Dr Boris Dzilkovski.

It's not the first time that additives have been shown to reduce the free radicals passing through the filter - both haemoglobin and activated carbon have been shown to reduce free-radicals in cancer smoke by up to 90 percent.

Because of the cost, though, no cigarette company has ever commercialized either of these.

Lycopene and grape seed extract are another matter, and can be collected in large quantities from tomato growers and the wine industry. And they're just as effective as the more expensive solutions, says the team, scavenging 90 percent of free radicals.

"Practically, this research could lead to an alternative type of cigarette filter with a free radical scavenging additive," says Dr Aaron Kolski-Andreaco, content director of JoVE, where the report appears.

"It could lead to a less harmful cigarette."

Unfortunately, adding the antioxidants might only work for heavier smokers who get through a pack quickly - and could cause problems for store owners. The filters lost a noticeable part of their ability to scavenge the free radicals after just a week of storage at room temperature.