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Science Ideas 91800 Building a better butt Is it possible to make smoking safer Or does that just tempt more smokers By Nancy Shute Its every smokers dream Keep the sweet consolation that cigarettes give but avoid the threat of death So far that dream has remained an illusion Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death in the United States claiming more than 400000 victims a year And cigarettes remain the worlds only major consumer productin contrast to cars canned peas and lipstickthat is not regulated to reduce risk But increasingly a once popular notion is being revived Is it time to sell a safer cigarette The question is fraught with peril Harm reduction is a time-honored principle of public health exemplified by mundane items like seat belts and sunscreen but also by methadone and needle-exchange programs for drug addicts Cigarettes are the equivalent of a dirty needle Yet public-health advocates have largely balked at cleaning them up fearing that less toxic smokes would encourage teens to indulge and quitters to light up once again The name safer cigarettes is a misnomer says Ron Todd director of tobacco control for the American Cancer Society The best thing to do is not to smoke New understanding of the science of nicotine addiction coupled with revelations on the sophisticated chemical engineering of the modern cigarette is feeding interest in reducing the habits harm from the surgeon general and the Institute of Medicine to manufacturers eager to turn a new leaf At the end of the month Star Scientific Inc of Chester Va will start test-marketing a cigarette with a charcoal filter and tobacco cured to reduce nitrosamine a potent carcinogen The mission says Star President Paul Perito is to prove the commercial viability of less hazardous tobacco products Thousands of chemicals Hazards abound More than 4000 chemicals swirl in tobacco smokeborn of the weed itself the curing process numerous additives
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