Cigarettes

Tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide numbers

The amounts of tar and nicotine produced by a cigarette vary from product to product in response to consumer demand.

 

In most countries of the world, this information appears on the packs to help consumers select the product according to their preference or taste. Some countries (such as the 28 member states of the European Union) require this information by law, and even set limits on the permitted yields of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide.

 

Generally, tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide numbers (or "yields") are determined according to testing methods approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which are recognized throughout most of the world.

The filter end of a cigarette is loaded into a port of the smoking machine.

Cigarettes are lit one by one by an electric heat source.

The cigarette is puffed (or smoked) with the aid of a pump and the mainstream smoke is drawn through a Cambridge filter pad located behind the cigarette port. The particles from the mainstream smoke are then collected on the pad.

Cigarettes are puffed at a rate of 35ml for 2 seconds every minute. These are the parameters prescribed by the ISO standard.

Cigarettes are puffed at a rate of 35ml for 2 seconds every minute. These are the parameters prescribed by the ISO standard.

The machine automatically stops puffing the cigarette at a prescribed point.

The weight of the nicotine and water is measured and subtracted from the total weight of particles collected on the pad. What remains is “tar” (nicotine free dry particulate matter).

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The numbers generated in this way provide an objective system of comparison between products. However, they do not and were never intended to give a precise figure for how much tar, nicotine and/or carbon monoxide an individual smoker will inhale when smoking a particular cigarette. While a smoking machine always "smokes" a cigarette in the same, precise manner – in order to provide data that can be easily compared with data for different cigarettes – in real life, every smoker smokes differently and may inhale more or less smoke than a smoking machine. Moreover, when switching to cigarettes with lower tar and nicotine numbers, some smokers may change their smoking behaviour, if only temporarily.

 

What does this all mean? It means that:

 

These numbers can assist consumers in choosing a cigarette according to preference or taste.

 

However, a smoker may obtain more or less tar, nicotine and/or carbon monoxide per cigarette than is indicated on the pack.

 

A product whose packaging shows lower tar, nicotine and/or carbon monoxide numbers than another product is not necessarily any less harmful than a product whose packaging shows higher numbers.