Smokers of ‘light’ or menthol cigarettes are just as likely to die from lung cancer as those who use the traditional ones, researchers claim.
Scientists have warned there is no safe cigarette, despite people believing low-tar options may be a healthier choice.
Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina analysed health records of 14,000 smokers, aged between 55 and 74.
All the volunteers had smoked for at least 30 ‘pack years’ – the number of packs per day multiplied by years smoked.
Academics calculated the effect of smoking habits on lung cancer incidence and mortality, as well as deaths from all causes, although it is not clear what other causes were studied.
No difference was found in lung cancer incidence or deaths, or all-cause mortality between regular cigarette smokers and light or ultralight smokers.
Lead author Dr Nina Thomas said: ‘There’s still this idea that light or ultralight might be better for you, and it’s not.
‘All cigarettes are bad. They all increase the risk for lung cancer and the risk of dying from lung cancer.’
However, the results did show smokers of light cigarettes – sold by brands such as Marlboro – had a lower dependence on tobacco.
But they were less likely to kick the habit than regular cigarette smokers, according to the data from The National Lung Screening Trial in the US.Light or ultralight cigarettes, which started being developed in the 1960s, are advertised as having less tobacco, nicotine, tar, and a milder flavour. Menthol cigarettes are flavoured with menthol.
And Dr Thomas added there was also ‘no difference’ in any of the outcomes when comparing menthol smokers to adults keen on normal cigarettes.
But smokers of unfiltered cigarettes were 40 per cent more likely to develop lung cancer, and almost twice as likely to die from it.
They’re also 30 per cent more likely to die of any cause and are more dependent, when compared with filtered cigarette smokers.
Filtered cigarettes – with the filter at the top – were introduced in the 1950s as a solution to the growing concern over cigarette safety.
Before this, all cigarettes were sold ‘unfiltered’, which you can still make today with rolling tobacco.
Dr Thomas said there have been several alterations to cigarettes in the past 70 years in response to public concern about health risks.
‘Despite these changes, smoking remains associated with 90 per cent of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer related mortality,’ she said.
Smoking rates have fallen over the past 50 years but around 40million Americans still smoke, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of smokers in the UK has also decreased over the past few decades, to a record low of just 14.9 per cent, according to the NHS.
Of those who do smoke, 60.8 per cent intend to quit, according to the Office for National Statistics.
There are around 46,700 new lung cancer cases in the UK every year, and in 2018 an estimated 234,000 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in the US.