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Misconceptions |

10 Dangerous Lies We Were Told about Smoking Cigarettes

by Lee D.
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

For decades, the truth about smoking was obscured by a web of deceptive myths and misleading claims. Tobacco companies, through clever marketing and advertising, spread numerous falsehoods that downplayed the dangers of cigarettes. Many people were led to believe that smoking was not only safe but also beneficial in various ways. It wasn’t until extensive research and public health campaigns revealed the true risks of smoking that these myths were debunked.

Related: 10 of the Strangest Things People Are Addicted To

10 It’s a Symbol of Sophistication

How Americans Got Sold on Cigarettes

Tobacco smoking has a rich and varied social and cultural history. In the 17th and 18th centuries, smoking was often associated with social status and sophistication. It became a symbol of refinement and leisure, especially in European and American societies. Coffeehouses and smoking clubs emerged as popular venues where people gathered to smoke and discuss politics, literature, and philosophy. The ritual of smoking pipes, cigars, and later cigarettes became ingrained in social practices and public life.

By the 20th century, smoking had become deeply embedded in popular culture. It was glamorized in movies, advertisements, and literature, often associated with sophistication, rebellion, and allure. However, as scientific research in the mid-20th century began to reveal the health risks associated with smoking, public perception began to shift. Anti-smoking campaigns and regulations emerged, aiming to reduce smoking rates and mitigate its negative health impacts.[1]

9 Light Cigarettes Are Healthier

US: New study links ‘light cigarettes’ directly to cancer

“Light” cigarettes were marketed as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, but research has shown they are not safer and may be linked to an increase in lung cancer cases. These cigarettes were designed with tiny ventilation holes in the filters, which dilute the smoke with air and make it seem less harsh. Smokers believed they were inhaling less tar and nicotine, but in reality, they often compensated by smoking more intensively, taking deeper puffs, or smoking more cigarettes.

Studies indicate that the specific design of light cigarettes led to a rise in a particular type of lung cancer known as adenocarcinoma. This is because the ventilation holes allow smokers to inhale the smoke more deeply into the lungs, where adenocarcinoma tends to develop. The deceptive marketing of light cigarettes has misled many smokers into thinking they were making a healthier choice when, in fact, they were potentially putting themselves at greater risk.

As more research comes to light, it becomes clearer that there is no safe cigarette, and the best choice for health is to avoid smoking altogether.[2]

8 Filters Make Cigarettes Safe

What’s the World’s Most Littered Plastic Item? Cigarette Butts | National Geographic

Cigarette filters were introduced in the 1950s with the promise of making smoking safer. This claim, however, is misleading. These filters, often made from cellulose acetate, were marketed as a way to reduce the intake of tar and harmful chemicals. Yet, research shows that they do not significantly decrease the danger of smoking. In fact, the filters can create a deceptive sense of security among smokers, leading them to inhale more deeply and smoke more frequently.

One major issue with filters is their ineffectiveness in blocking harmful substances. The tiny holes in filters allow smokers to draw in more air, diluting the smoke but not reducing the actual intake of toxic chemicals. This can result in smokers compensating by taking longer drags and holding the smoke in their lungs longer, ultimately increasing their exposure to harmful compounds. Consequently, filtered cigarettes may not lower health risks as intended and can even enhance nicotine addiction.

Filters also contribute significantly to environmental pollution. As one of the most littered items worldwide, discarded cigarette butts release toxic chemicals into soil and water, harming wildlife and ecosystems. This environmental impact adds another layer to the problem, showing that cigarette filters not only fail to protect smokers’ health but also pose a threat to the environment.

Despite these concerns, many smokers continue to believe in the safety claims associated with cigarette filters. This misconception is partly due to persistent marketing strategies by tobacco companies, which emphasize the supposed benefits of filtered cigarettes.[3]

7 Secondhand Smoke Is Harmless

Seriousness of 2nd hand smoke and its affects on nonsmokers

For years and years, tobacco companies have been notorious for misleading the public about the dangers of smoking. In a groundbreaking move in 2017, these companies were ordered by a federal court to launch an ad campaign that openly admits the harmful effects of smoking and their deceptive practices.

The campaign revealed several critical truths, including facts about the dangers of secondhand smoke. When someone smokes, the smoke released from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker both contribute to secondhand smoke. This toxic mix contains over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are harmful, and around 70 that can cause cancer. Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke can experience many of the same health problems as smokers.

One of the most severe effects of secondhand smoke is its impact on the cardiovascular system. Non-smokers who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased risk of developing heart disease. This exposure can lead to conditions such as heart attacks, stroke, and hardening of the arteries. Even short-term exposure can affect the lining of blood vessels, increasing the risk of blood clots and heart problems.

Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous for children and infants. Exposure can lead to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear infections, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks.[4]

6 No Link to Cancer

Chemicals in Every Cigarette Product

The tobacco industry has long known about the presence of radioactive particles in cigarettes but chose to hide this information from the public. A report by UCLA Health uncovered that these radioactive particles, specifically polonium-210 and lead-210, are highly carcinogenic and significantly heighten the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Despite understanding the severe health implications, tobacco companies did not act to remove these harmful substances from their products.

Internal documents from the tobacco industry, going back to the 1960s, reveal that researchers were fully conscious of the threats these radioactive elements posed. However, companies prioritized their profits and market share over addressing the issue. Attempts to reduce the levels of radioactive particles were either minimal or entirely ignored, leaving millions of smokers unwittingly exposed to heightened cancer risks.[5]

5 It Helps You Lose Weight

Women and Smoking: The Seven Deadly Myths with Christy Turlington (excerpt)

The depiction of weight and slimness in American women’s tobacco advertisements reflects a disturbing intersection of societal beauty standards and corporate manipulation. In the early to mid-20th century, tobacco companies aggressively marketed cigarettes to women by associating smoking with slimness and weight control. Slogans like “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet” played on the fear of weight gain, promoting cigarettes as a diet aid.

These advertisements often featured glamorous, slender women, implying that smoking was key to achieving and maintaining an idealized body image. This marketing strategy capitalized on the growing cultural obsession with thinness and the pressures women faced to conform to these standards. The message was clear: smoking was not just a habit but a lifestyle choice that could help women stay thin and attractive.

The impact of these ads was significant. They not only contributed to the normalization of smoking among women but also perpetuated harmful stereotypes about body image and weight. By linking cigarettes with slimness, tobacco companies exploited insecurities about weight, making smoking seem like a solution to an age-old problem. This tactic not only increased cigarette sales but also ingrained the dangerous idea that smoking was a viable method for weight control despite its severe health risks.[6]

4 Not Addictive

The past, present and future of nicotine addiction | Mitch Zeller

In a 1994 public hearing conducted by Congress, the CEO of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company claimed that they did not increase or manipulate nicotine levels to create or sustain addiction. Similarly, the chairman and CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Company denied adjusting nicotine levels for specific brands. Despite these assertions, companies did manipulate nicotine levels to enhance addiction, fully aware of the harmful effects. Techniques, such as adding ammonia, were used to accelerate nicotine delivery to the brain, intensifying its immediate impact.

Tobacco companies also made their cigarettes more addictive by modifying their design. They introduced filters with tiny holes, which made the smoke feel smoother and less harsh, allowing smokers to inhale more deeply and absorb more nicotine unknowingly. These filters were deceptive, giving a false sense of safety while actually boosting nicotine intake.

The industry also increased the use of sugar and other additives in cigarettes. Upon burning, these additives produced chemicals like acetaldehyde, which amplified nicotine’s addictive properties. This combination intensified nicotine’s hold on the brain, making cigarettes even more difficult to quit.[7]

3 Safe for Pregnant Women

How smoking affects your baby when you’re pregnant – an expert view from a midwife

No amount of smoking during pregnancy is safe. Yet, before 1955, individual smoking habits weren’t surveyed, and women were omitted from epidemiological studies. During the tobacco epidemic’s peak, most physicians smoked, and tobacco products were advertised in medical journals and conventions. As time went on, many developed countries, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, saw overall smoking rates decline.

However, the rate of smoking during pregnancy in the United States still exceeds the global average of 1.7%, although it’s lower than in Ireland, Uruguay, and Bulgaria. While public health-focused tobacco control policies and programs have significantly reduced overall smoking rates, it’s unclear if similar reductions have occurred among pregnant women.

It is known that smoking during pregnancy poses significant risks to both the mother and the baby. When a pregnant woman smokes, she inhales harmful chemicals like nicotine and carbon monoxide, which pass through her bloodstream to the baby. These substances can restrict the oxygen and nutrient supply, affecting the baby’s growth and development. Babies born to mothers who smoke are more likely to be premature, have low birth weight, and face complications that can lead to long-term health issues.[8]

2 Doctors Recommend It

Doctors says Smoking is Good for you !!!!!!!

In the mid-20th century, cigarette companies employed a surprising and now shocking strategy to market their products: they used doctors to endorse smoking. These ads featured medical professionals clad in white coats, confidently recommending specific cigarette brands. The goal was to reassure the public that smoking was safe and even beneficial, leveraging the trust and authority that doctors held.

These endorsements were often based on misleading claims and biased research. Tobacco companies funded studies that downplayed the health risks of smoking and promoted the notion that certain brands were less irritating or smoother on the throat. This deceptive advertising capitalized on the public’s lack of awareness about the dangers of smoking, creating a false sense of security around tobacco use.

As medical evidence began to mount in the 1950s and 1960s showing the harmful effects of smoking, the use of doctors in cigarette ads became untenable. The public health community pushed back, and regulatory actions eventually curtailed these misleading advertisements.[9]

1 E-Cigarettes Are Completely Safe

Health Risks of Vaping: Lessons From the Battle With Big Tobacco | Retro Report

Vaping is the process of inhaling aerosol produced by e-cigarettes or similar devices. Despite being marketed as a safer alternative to traditional smoking, it carries significant health risks. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that can affect brain development in young people and potentially result in long-term addiction. Moreover, the aerosol produced by these devices contains harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, acrolein, and diacetyl, which can harm lung tissue and cause respiratory issues.

While vaping is often promoted as a tool to help quit smoking, evidence supporting its effectiveness is limited. Many individuals who take up vaping as a means to quit smoking end up using both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, sustaining their nicotine addiction.

The increased popularity of vaping among teenagers and young adults is concerning. Factors such as flavored e-cigarettes, attractive designs, and targeted marketing have led to a rise in vaping among this demographic. This development stirs concerns about nicotine addiction, the potential for this habit to serve as a gateway to traditional smoking, and the unknown long-term health impacts. [10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen