October 12, 2010 - A new international research project has found high levels of heavy metals in Chinese cigarettes, with some containing three times the level of lead, cadmium and arsenic of Canadian brands. According to the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Project, very high levels of lead cadmium and arsenic were found in 13 Chinese cigarettes brands.
The International Tobacco Control Project, which brings together experts from 20 countries, released a series of 11 research studies that found China was endangering cigarette buyers at home and abroad by failing to implement stronger controls. "All 13 Chinese cigarette brands tested were found to have significantly elevated levels of heavy metals, with some containing about three times the level of lead, cadmium, and arsenic compared to Canadian cigarette brands," the study, released on Thursday, found. "The presence of high levels of heavy metals in Chinese cigarettes may constitute a potential global public health problem as exports of Chinese cigarettes continue to increase."
Wang Xiansheng, deputy director of the technology department of China's State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, expressed doubts over the study's credibility. "It's a reality that heavy metal has become one of the major pollutants of farmland and the crops grown on it in China," Wang Zuwei, a professor from the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Tianjin Normal University, told the Global Times yesterday. Statistics released by the China Food Safety Forum last year revealed that metal pollution affected more than 20 million hectares of farmland.
Professor Geoffrey T. Fong from the University of Waterloo in Canada, a researcher of the ITC China Project, said, "It is fundamentally wrong that consumers in many countries know about the content of the chocolate bars they eat, but know nothing about what is in the cigarettes they smoke.
Fong said Chinese consumers are often "kept in the dark" about the harmful substances found in cigarettes. Fong said many cigarettes are packaged as "light" or "low-tar," misleading consumers into believing they are less harmful. "Among Chinese people, knowledge is low, misperceptions are high, and unless stronger action is taken, China will soon find itself in the midst of an even more devastating public health disaster than it is experiencing now," Fong said.
About a million smokers die each year in China from tobacco-related diseases and 100,000 people from exposure to second-hand smoke, the project, published as a supplement to the journal Tobacco Control, found. "If current trends continue, China's death toll from tobacco will reach two million per year by 2020," it said.
References: Chinese Cigarettes Contain Three Times the Level of Heavy Metals by Katy McEwen, ITCproject.org, 10/7/2010; Chinese cigarettes contain dangerous levels of heavy metals--study by Neharika Sabharwal, TheMedGuru.com, 10/11/2010; Cigarettes High in Heavy Metal, Web Editor: Jiang Aitao, China Daily, 10/12/2010.