Antioxidant filters reduce toxicity of cigarette smoke

By Karla Gale

BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters Health) – Incorporating antioxidant-impregnated filters into cigarettes could reduce their health-damaging effects, according to data presented here Friday at the 168th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Dr. Theodore Hersh, professor emeritus at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and president of Thione International, Inc., of Atlanta, reported that smoke passed through the impregnated filters was less harmful to cultures of human cells than smoke passed through untreated filters.

"There are 1.1 billion smokers world-wide who are going to smoke regardless of their knowledge of the health effects," Dr. Hersh told Reuters Health. "Smoking products containing antioxidants can reduce free radical damage to the oropharyngeal cavity, respiratory tract and lungs resulting from tobacco smoke."

Dr. Hersh and colleagues investigated an antioxidant complex composed of L-glutathione, N-acetyl-L-cysteine and L-selenomethionine that was incorporated into cigarette filters during manufacturing. He said the antioxidant complex could also be incorporated in tobacco itself or used to treat pipes and the paper used to manufacture cigarettes and cigars.

In research presented at AAAS, the investigators placed cigarette smoke from test and control cigarettes on a cell line of fetal fibroblasts. Cells exposed to control tobacco smoke exhibited a viability of 60% at 24 hours, while the viability of those exposed to the antioxidant-treated smoke was 95%.

When human lymphocytes were similarly exposed, their survival averaged 40% after 40 minutes of contact with control smoke versus 82% after contact with treated smoke.

In a second set of experiments, the investigators exposed saliva from non-smokers to smoke from cigarettes with control and test filters.

Normal cigarette smoke generates protein carbonyls as a result of aldehydes reacting with sulfhydryl groups in salivary proteins. Two hours after exposure, the protein carbonyls induced in the saliva by the antioxidant-treated cigarettes was approximately half that produced by regular cigarettes.

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