Janet Hoek, Phil Gendall, Tom Novotny, Nick Wilson, Lindsay Robertson, Richard Edwards, James F Thrasher (*Creator particulars)
The Authorities’s proposed Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Motion Plan units out a perceptive imaginative and prescient for decreasing smoking prevalence and making certain that, as soon as the objective is reached, future generations will stay smokefree. Among the many evidence-based measures set out, the plan contains proposals to “make smoked tobacco merchandise much less addictive and fewer interesting”. On this weblog, we study the Authorities’s particular proposal to ban filters and disallow improvements, components, and different product adjustments that maintain the attraction and addictiveness of smoked tobacco merchandise.
How did filters turn into an integral element of cigarettes?
Cigarettes initially had no filters. Historians counsel filters had been first launched to create a barrier between the tobacco in a cigarette stick and a smoker’s mouth (although cigarette holders might have carried out an analogous perform earlier than then). Even earlier than proof about smoking’s harms was clearly documented, cigarette promoting recommended filters supplied throat safety, as seen within the Craven A commercial, which claims the model was: “Made specifically to stop sore throats” (see Determine beneath).
Because the harms of smoking turned well-established,1 2 filters’ function as a possible “decreased danger” device expanded, and claims to this impact featured strongly in cigarette promoting from the Nineteen Fifties onwards. The 1960 Lark commercial beneath highlights the charcoal filter the model used, which drew on “fashionable science” selling charcoal use “to scrub smoke”. In contrast, the Viceroy commercial makes use of comparative claims to indicate superior filtration and style, thus encouraging perceptions that filters might enhance the expertise people who smoke sought from their model.
The harm-reduction fable
These ads illustrate tobacco firms’ seek for an answer to rising well being “controversies” concerning smoking. Advances in manufacturing and plastics expertise led to cellulose acetate’s identification as an appropriate filter materials and enabled wide-scale implementation of this elementary change in cigarette design.3 By the Nineteen Nineties, filters had been so successfully marketed as harm-reduction instruments that non-filtered cigarettes held solely a negligible market-share.4
Analyses of trade paperwork counsel that, whereas this product innovation might have begun as an effort to handle danger, it developed into large-scale shopper fraud as tobacco firms’ personal analysis discovered filters had no materials impact on eliminating toxins from smoke.3 As a result of filters made drawing on a cigarette extra effortful, tobacco firms launched filter air flow; vents, or small perforations across the filter to make “dragging” simpler. Filter air flow additionally modified within the machine-smoked yield of tar and nicotine, which led firms to indicate that ‘mild’ and ‘low tar’ cigarettes had been much less dangerous than “common” variants.5 Even after regulators banned the usage of these phrases, tobacco firms have used different variant names resembling “easy” and “high-quality”, which attraction to customers and proceed this deception.6
Claude Teague, a scientist engaged on filters for the tobacco firm RJ Reynolds, discovered that altering the pH of filters led these to discolour after smoking, thus creating the deceptive impression that filters eliminated toxins and thus rendered smoking protected. He wrote: “The cigarette smoking public attaches nice significance to visible examination of the filter materials in filter tip cigarettes after smoking the cigarettes. A earlier than and after smoking visible comparability is normally made and if the filter tip materials, after smoking, is darkened, the tip is mechanically judged to be efficient. Whereas the usage of such color change materials would in all probability have little or no impact on the precise effectivity of the filter tip materials, the promoting and gross sales benefits are apparent.”5
A report on Vantage cigarettes performed for RJ Reynolds revealed how efficiently filters reassured people who smoke: “Vantage people who smoke imagine that the filter itself is powerful sufficient to catch these impurities and that the entire construction is such that they won’t see a lot of the ensuing discoloration. These concepts make them assume the top product is a milder and extra ‘healthful’ smoke.”7 Filters turned a harm-reduction image to counter the rising risk from the overwhelming proof of smoking’s harms, thus reassuring people who smoke and dissuading them from quitting.
Filter improvements to recruit youth
Regardless of adjustments to cigarette design and the subtle advertising and marketing of filter improvements, smoking prevalence continued to say no, main tobacco firms to create new merchandise designed to recruit alternative people who smoke and so keep their income streams. Thus, within the 2000s, filters started to imagine the brand new function of attracting people who smoke by carrying flavour beads, or capsules, which people who smoke might crush to flavour the smoke and customise their smoking experiences. Whereas most capsule variants provide menthol or mint flavours, fruit flavours are more and more widespread, as have cigarettes with two otherwise flavoured capsules in the identical filter.
Filters containing flavour capsules might seem a stunning innovation, given established grownup people who smoke sometimes cite style as a foremost motive for choosing “their” model, to which most people who smoke are “model loyal”.8 Nonetheless, flavour capsule cigarette gross sales have grown quickly, even in markets the place total tobacco consumption is declining, resembling New Zealand.September 11 Analysis signifies that, regardless of tobacco firms’ asserting their advertising and marketing goals to extend model share relatively than entice new customers,12 flavour-capsule cigarettes attraction extra to prone younger grownup non-smokers than to younger grownup people who smoke.13 The fast development in capsule gross sales is thus extra prone to replicate recruitment of recent, predominantly younger “alternative people who smoke” than it’s to stimulate model switching amongst present people who smoke.
In addition to deceptive people who smoke and attracting non-smokers, filters trigger main environmental hurt. Every year, round 4 trillion cigarette butts are discarded globally, making tobacco product waste (TPW) probably the most generally littered merchandise on the earth.14 A current NZ Nationwide Litter Audit additionally reported that cigarette butts had been probably the most steadily recognized litter merchandise.
As a result of cigarette butts predominantly comprise a poorly biodegradable cellulose acetate filter (a type of plastic), this waste incorporates chemical toxins from tobacco and contributes to microplastic contamination within the setting. Tobacco waste deposited on seashores and in city environments ultimately enters rivers, lakes and streams, and strikes out to sea, the place it contributes to accumulating plastic mountains.15-18
This environmental contamination ought to be of concern to all international locations and has specific salience to New Zealand, which has drawn closely on its pure setting to market itself as a worldwide tourism vacation spot. In addition to harming individuals and wildlife, tobacco product waste threatens New Zealand’s “100% pure” tourism id.19 Given rising worldwide concern about plastic waste, it’s stunning that the Royal Society of New Zealand’s current report on plastics mentions cigarette filters solely twice in passing and makes no particular suggestions to cut back TPW. Air pollution of waterways with poisonous waste can be problematic below Te Tiriti, given the cultural significance of waterways to Māori and the function these play as meals sources.
Regardless of realizing that filters convey deceptive harm-reduction connotations and contribute to environmental contamination, and despite proof that many individuals imagine cigarette butts are biodegradable,20 21 tobacco firms have relocated accountability for TPW prevention to individuals who smoke, to voluntary clean-up efforts, and to native authorities.22 This downstream orientation underlies trade calls to extend the supply and distribution of butt receptacles and shifts consideration away from tobacco firms’ function in making a product they know is dangerous to human well being in addition to the setting.22 Paradoxically, as lately as 2020, British American Tobacco cited its assist of the anti-litter “Preserve New Zealand Lovely” programme as proof of its dedication to sustainability.
Tobacco firms’ efforts to border themselves as socially accountable company entities keen to spend money on environmental initiatives have undermined efficient tobacco management insurance policies.23 Surveys present that the general public (people who smoke and non-smokers alike) view individuals who smoke as answerable for TPW, with fewer allocating accountability to tobacco firms.21 This deal with people, or down-stream actors and voluntary teams, fits the tobacco trade’s pursuits and ignores proof that up-stream interventions, resembling adjustments in tobacco product design, will probably be far simpler in decreasing the environmental burden of TPW.24 25
Why banning filters is the optimum coverage measure
For the three causes outlined above, the NZ Authorities’s proposal to take away filters will lastly acknowledge the harms these cigarette elements trigger. Some jurisdictions have already responded to the environmental threats filters pose; for instance, members of the New York state legislature have proposed a statute banning the sale of single use filters (and e-cigarettes). The (European Union EU) Directive 2019/904, which goals to cut back the affect sure plastic merchandise have on the setting, additionally addresses TPW, although the directive proposes creating biodegradable alternate options relatively than banning all filters.
Whereas designing filters from different, much less environmentally dangerous, elements could seem an acceptable compromise, this measure would possible additional mislead people who smoke. For instance, it will encourage them to view discarded butts as innocent, despite the fact that poisonous chemical compounds would nonetheless be leached into the setting. Additional, biodegradable filters would go away unaddressed each the decades-long shopper fraud that tobacco firms’ promotion of filters has perpetuated and the usage of improvements, resembling capsules, that recruit “alternative people who smoke” to proceed. Solely eradicating filters fully will remove a good portion of TPW, deal with shopper deception, shield younger individuals, and encourage smoking cessation.
Tobacco firms might struggle to protect the frilly and long-standing fraud perpetuated by cigarette filters; nonetheless, they haven’t any authentic argument to oppose this measure. Greater than half a century in the past, tobacco firms issued a “Frank Assertion” in response to rising considerations in regards to the harms smoking causes. In that assertion, they claimed they “at all times have and at all times will cooperate carefully with these whose process it’s to safeguard the general public well being”. This promise calls into query tobacco firms’ sustained opposition to each public well being coverage that might curtail smoking prevalence. The NZ Authorities’s proposal to ban filters offers tobacco firms a possibility to take away filters voluntarily, forward of laws. Doing so would act on their longstanding data of the misperceptions related to filters and present some belated consistency with their expressed concern for “public well being”.3 4
Anecdotal claims counsel that individuals who smoke might develop alternate options to filters, resembling cardboard. Nonetheless, people who smoke who’ve tried this technique report it as ineffective. Moreover, the hassle required to organize these alternate options a number of instances a day means that, like different avoidance measures, resembling utilizing sleeves to keep away from publicity to standardised packs, the behaviour would decline rapidly over time.27 Tobacco firms might provide filter alternate options, for instance, by reintroducing cigarette holders, however insurance policies might pre-empt this technique by banning gross sales of merchandise that might facilitate smoking, together with cigarette holders.
Given the absence of affordable, science-based objections, introducing and implementing a ban on cigarette filters ought to be easy. Latest commentaries counsel treating filters as components25 might permit bans to be launched utilizing present rules and would simplify the introduction of this measure.
In abstract, banning the sale of filters and filtered cigarettes would deal with a persistent shopper fraud that has deceived generations of people who smoke, and scale back the tobacco trade’s means to develop product improvements that maintain its income on the expense of human well being. This measure would additionally take away a ubiquitous supply of poisonous plastic waste from the environment. Disallowing filters would assist the 2025 Smokefree Aim, reinstate New Zealand as a worldwide public well being chief, and illustrate a much-needed dedication to defending the environment.
* Creator Particulars: Hoek is a Professor of Public Well being (and was previously a Professor of Advertising); Gendall is an Emeritus Professor of Advertising at Massey College; Novotny is an Emeritus Professor of International Well being on the San Diego State College; Robertson is a Senior Analysis Fellow within the Division of Preventive and Social Medication; Wilson and Edwards are Professors of Public Well being; Thrasher is a Professor of Well being Promotion, Schooling, and Conduct.
All authors besides Professors Novotny and Thrasher are members of the ASPIRE 2025 Centre on the College of Otago.
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