BRITISH AMERICAN Tobacco (BAT) will launch a new brand of cigarettes next year, which will offer the smoker a 90 per cent reduction in the risks of contracting cancer and developing cardiac problems against those cigarettes existing on the market today.
Commenting on the new product in Correio da Manhã newspaper, pneumologist Maria João Gomes emphasises that no harmless form of smoking exists. “The inhalation of unfamiliar products into the body is damaging,” she says.
BAT, the multinational organisation responsible for more than 300 brands of cigarettes including Dunhill, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall, explains that the new cigarette is less harmful because it has perfected the method of drying the tobacco leaves in a way that reduces the carcinogenic substances smoked. However, as reported in The Sunday Times, the new filter, which prevents the majority of these substances from being inhaled, allows the nicotine to pass through.
BAT intends to publicise its new cigarettes as being “potentially safer”. Maria João Gomes has doubts about the honesty of this claim, questioning how a label – in agreement with European Union legislation – could possibly be placed on the packets.
Meanwhile, the president of the Portuguese Pneumology Society discredits the discovery, reminding that studies carried out with ‘light’ cigarettes show that the harm to our health is identical to the damage inflicted by normal cigarettes.
The company is taking a cautious approach in the disclosure of its latest product, taking into consideration the skeptical reaction from doctors and anti-smoking organisations.
John Britton, professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, says that anything involving the inhalation of tobacco carries a health risk. “Smoking these new cigarettes will be like jumping from the fifth floor of a building instead of jumping from the 20th floor. In theory, the risk is minor, but the person dies all the same.”
Cigarettes are one of the causes of heart and lung illnesses, and can be responsible for the appearance of tumours. The number of smokers in Portugal is falling – nine years ago there were 3.6 million, today there are two million.
TV campaign shouts “smoking is disgusting”
THE BRITISH Hospital of Lisbon is considering starting up a free clinic for people wishing to quit smoking. The service, for a limited number of smokers for a limited period, was decided as a way of contributing to World Non-Smoking Day, which was on November 17. The measure comes after the Portuguese medical authorities released worrying data, revealing that one third of the population smokes.
Tobacco smoking is one of the main causes of premature death worldwide, from diseases such as chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer. In response to statistics that reveal that, in Portugal, the consumption of tobacco kills around 12,000 people a year, the Portuguese Heart Foundation has instigated a nationwide, anti-smoking TV campaign with the slogan “smoking is disgusting”.
As part of World Non-Smoking Day, research company Spirituc has developed a study to find out how much the Portuguese understand about the dangers of tobacco. Survey results showed that 91 per cent of those questioned knew smoking caused lung cancer and feared the disease. But the initial symptoms of lung cancer – persistent cough and breathing difficulties – were only understood by 40 per cent.
“It’s rather alarming to reach the conclusion that one third of the population smokes, or has smoked,” said pneumologist Eulália Semedo.
Publicity was seen, by 23 per cent of those questioned, as one of the best ways to get people to stop smoking, while 10 per cent advocated a total smoking ban. However, shocking images and slogans put on cigarette packets have only deterred five per cent of smokers into giving up, while 45 per cent of those questioned said only a diagnosis of serious illness would lead them to quit.
Eulália Semedo doubts that raising the tax on tobacco would encourage more people to quit: “This is an illusion, because smokers are addicted to the habit and, therefore, cannot give up easily. What we need to do is to co-ordinate all organisations linked with the problem and educate society as a whole. Plus, the government needs to deal with the fact that there are few specialists to treat those suffering from the habit,” she concluded.