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Impact of cigarette filter ventilation on U.S. Smokers’ perceptions and biomarkers of exposure and potential harm

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Background: Relationships between cigarette filter ventilation levels, biomarkers of exposure (BOE) and potential harm (BOPH), and harm perceptions were examined. Methods: Filter ventilation levels in cigarette brands were merged with Wave 1 (2013–2014) Population Assessment of Tobacco Use and Health study. Data were restricted to smokers who reported a usual brand and not regular users of other tobacco products. BOEs included nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines, volatile organic compounds (VOC), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. BOPHs measured inflammation and oxidative stress. Perceived harm was assessed as self-reported risk of one's usual brand compared with other brands. Results: Filter ventilation ranged from 0.2% to 61.1% (n ¼ 1,503). Adjusted relationships between filter ventilation and BOE or BOPH were nonsignificant except for VOC N-acetyl-S-(phenyl)-Lcysteine (PHMA) and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP). In pairwise comparisons, PHMA was higher in quartile (Q) 4 (4.23 vs. 3.36 pmol/mg; P ¼ 0.0103) and Q3 (4.48 vs. 3.36 pmol/mg; P ¼ 0.0038) versus Q1 of filter ventilation and hsCRP comparisons were nonsignificant. Adjusted odds of perceiving one's own brand as less harmful was 26.87 (95% confidence interval: 4.31–167.66), 12.55 (3.01–52.32), and 19.18 (3.87–95.02) times higher in the Q2, Q3, and Q4 of filter ventilation compared with Q1 (P ¼ 0.0037). Conclusions: Filter ventilation was not associated with BOE or BOPH, yet smokers of higher ventilated cigarettes perceived their brand as less harmful than other brands compared with smokers of lower ventilated cigarettes. Impact: Research to understand the impact of this misperception is needed, and remedial strategies, potentially including a ban on filter ventilation, are recommended.




Carroll, D. M., Stepanov, I., O’Connor, R., Luo, X., Michael Cummings, K., Rees, V. W., … Hatsukami, D. K. (2021). Impact of cigarette filter ventilation on U.S. Smokers’ perceptions and biomarkers of exposure and potential harm. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, 30(1), 38–44.

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