Roll-your-owns less natural and at least as harmful as tailor-made cigarettes

February 12, 2014

Poorer smokers may favour "roll your own" and many falsely believe that use of loose tobacco is less dangerous than factory-made cigarettes, according to a University of Otago public health researcher writing in the British Medical Journal.

A recent campaign in south-west England has prompted the suggestion that specific interventions may be needed to encourage roll-your-own (RYO) to quit.

According to University of Otago Wellington Professor of Public Health Richard Edwards, the campaign suggested some aspects of RYOs merit particular concern. This includes evidence that RYO are as harmful as their factory rolled counterparts even though many falsely believe them to be more 'natural' and less dangerous.

His personal view article has been published on bmj.com today.

Professor Edwards says the evidence suggests that many smokers believe that RYO cigarettes are more "natural" and less of a hazard than pre-rolled cigarettes.

For example in Canada, the United States, Australia, the UK and New Zealand, between 21% and 40% of RYO smokers reported that they thought they were healthier. However, evidence shows that RYO cigarettes are at "least as hazardous" as any other type of cigarette, and that they have a much greater concentration of additives than manufactured cigarettes.

Professor Edwards notes that in New Zealand the "concentration of additives is higher in loose tobacco at about 18% […] compared with 0.5% for factory-made cigarette".

Prevalence has been increasing greatly in some jurisdictions, for example in the UK, use of RYO cigarettes among smokers older than 16 increased from 2% to 23% among women and from 18% to 39% among men between 1990 and 2010. Professor Edwards says the high use among youth "further suggests that they may have a specific role in facilitating initiation of smoking".

Evidence also shows that there is a high rate of RYO cigarettes in disadvantaged groups in many countries with higher usage among black South Africans, Maori in New Zealand and smokers of lower socioeconomic status in Australia, the UK, the US and Canada. In New Zealand, RYO cigarette smokers are more likely to have been diagnosed as having "mental health, drug use, and alcohol related disorders and to have hazardous drinking patterns".

Professor Edwards says there is mixed evidence as to whether reducing prevalence among RYO cigarette smokers is more difficult than for other . He suggests that tobacco control interventions "need to be formulated with an awareness of the extent of use of RYO cigarettes".

He suggests that tobacco tax regimes correct differences in tobacco prices, as New Zealand did in 2010. Another measure might also be to tailor mass media campaigns and pack warnings to correct misinterpretations that RYO cigarettes are less hazardous to health or more natural.

Professor Edwards concludes that a "more radical move" would be to ban the sale of loose tobacco altogether.

Explore further: Smoking long or ultralong cigarettes increases risk of lung cancer

Related Stories

Smoking long or ultralong cigarettes increases risk of lung cancer

October 28, 2013
Smokers of long or ultralong cigarettes are at greater risk for lung and oral cancer than smokers of regular and king-size cigarettes, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Center for Global Tobacco ...

Perceived benefits of e-cigarettes may lead to higher experimentation rates

January 7, 2014
Despite years of anti-smoking education and legislation, tobacco use still remains an important public health issue in the United States. In 2010, 25.2% of all adults and 35.6% of young adults reported current tobacco use. ...

Role of E-cigarettes in eliminating tobacco use discussed

December 19, 2013
(HealthDay)—The public health issues relating to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and their role in eliminating tobacco use are discussed in a perspective piece published online Dec. 18 in the New England Journal of ...

US launching anti-smoking campaign aimed at youth

February 4, 2014
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is using ads that depict yellow teeth and wrinkled skin to show at-risk American youth the costs associated with cigarette smoking.

Philippines warns against e-cigarette use

April 12, 2013
The Philippine health department warned the public on Friday against electronic cigarettes, saying the tobacco substitute could turn children into smokers.

Plain packaging reduces allure of cigarettes: study

July 22, 2013
Scientists on Monday said they had evidence that plain packaging for cigarettes diminishes the appeal of smoking, as anti-tobacco campaigners suggest.

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Feb 12, 2014
Traditionally, RYO tobacco contains no additives to keep them alight such as saltpeter. Thus one notes, in the past (when I smoked, about 25 years ago) that when a RYO and tailor made were left sitting on the ashtray shortly after lighting, the tailor made will burn down to the butt whereas the RYO goes out.

Perhaps this has changed? Note also that there is a very cheap tobacco and expensive loose tobacco...did the study test both?

One gets the feeling that the acceptable range of findings was clear before the study was initiated and the researchers dutifully remained within it ie to confirm that each alternative tobacco product is worse than the other. If the study was done on the question of whether tailor made cigarettes are safer than RYO, as this study implied, the finding would have been the same ~ the alternative (in this case the tailor made) is more dangerous than the RYO.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.