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'Light' Cigarettes Take Heavy Toll on Blood Flow

Smoking them constricts vessels just as much as regular brands, study finds

MONDAY, May 14, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- So-called "light" low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes are just as tough on heart blood flow as regular cigarettes, a new study finds.

Turkish researchers looked at 62 people in their mid-20s with no evidence of coronary artery disease.

Twenty of the study volunteers had smoked "light" cigarettes (8 milligrams tar, 0.6 milligrams nicotine, and 9 milligrams carbon monoxide) for at least three years, while 20 others had smoked regular cigarettes (12 milligrams tar, 0.9 milligrams nicotine, and 12 milligrams carbon monoxide) for the same length of time. The remainder of the volunteers were non-smokers.

Researchers at Baskent University used coronary flow velocity response (CFVR) -- a measure of how readily coronary arteries can dilate in response to increased blood flow -- to assess the cardiovascular health of all the volunteers.

Both groups of smokers were tested two days before and 30 minutes after smoking two of their usual cigarettes within the space of 15 minutes.

In both groups of smokers, blood pressure and heart rate climbed after smoking.

The researchers also found that CFVR -- which was already lower in both groups of smokers than in the non-smokers -- fell even further after smoking "light" or regular cigarettes.

CFVR fell from 2.68 to 2.05 among those who smoked "light" cigarettes, and from 2.65 to 2.18 among those who smoked regular cigarettes. Among non-smokers, CFVR was 3.11.

The findings, published in the journal Heart, show that smokers are mistaken if they believe that switching to low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes will reduce some of the health dangers of smoking, the study authors said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about light cigarettes.

SOURCE: Heart, news release, May 14, 2007
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