The Dangers Of Fake Cigarettes
Article by Astrid Mitchell
If you want to take care of your health then of course it would be a good idea to stop smoking altogether. But cutting back on costs by buying fake cigarettes is likely to prove a false economy – the hidden costs could be deadly.
All tobacco smoking has a damaging effect on health, including an increased risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organization estimated that in developed countries, 26% of male deaths and 9% of female deaths were attributable to smoking.
But research has shown that the average counterfeit cigarette has 75% more tar, 28% more nicotine and about 63% more carbon monoxide – around twice the amount of cancer causing agents – than are found in most authentic cigarettes. Fake cigarettes are also often contaminated with sand, wood or plastic.
Counterfeit Cigarettes Contain More Heavy Metals
The tobacco in counterfeit cigarettes may have been grown using fertiliser contaminated by a host of dangerous chemicals – sometimes due to exposure to sewage sludge – increasing the cigarette’s levels of dangerous heavy metals. Contaminated fertilisers are no longer used in countries with strong environmental legislation, but this does not apply universally.
These toxic heavy metals include arsenic, lead and cadmium. They are well known to occur in tobacco in small quantities but the levels rise significantly in fake cigarettes. Even at low concentrations, arsenic and cadmium can cause cancers in humans, and, like lead, they can give rise to a range of other disorders.
However, high levels of metals in tobacco are far more dangerous than the small amounts which occur naturally in some foods, including potatoes. This is because the tobacco plant is very efficient at concentrating metals in its leaves, and the combustion of the cigarette releases the metals into smoke and delivers them directly to the lungs.
Buying Fake Cigarettes Funds Organised Crime
Fake cigarettes may be cheap, but they bring with them a host of undesirable effects. Smoking them can have far worse effects of health than smoking authentic cigarettes, and buying them can fund organised crime.
As well as the health risks, counterfeit cigarettes also pose problems to society because consumers are likely to be funding organised crime. Fake cigarettes tend to have been circulated by organised crime syndicates rather than amiable amateurs.
Groundbreaking Authentication Technology
The consumer may not even have an inkling that the cigarettes they are buying are counterfeits. Even when packets have been bought from a reputable establishment, they may turn out to be counterfeits, convincingly repackaged as top brands.
As a result of this danger, there are now large amounts of time and money being put into cigarette authentication technique, to provide effective means to allow shopkeepers and their customers to reliably check whether their cigarettes are authentic.
In one example of this, some enterprising counterfeit technology companies have teamed up with Nokia to produce a system which makes it possible for the consumer to check whether the cigarettes they are buying are the real deal.
The new authentication technology involves a unique random number being generated and laser printed on the side of the packet. This code can be checked by consumers using a mobile phone, which reads the image, connects to a secure central internet service, verifies the code and then sends back confirmation that it is authentic.
About the Author
Astrid Mitchell is the executive editor at Reconnaissance International, the leading global source of business intelligence on brand protection, holography, authentication for document security and personal identification. The organisation publishes 3 trade titles – Currency News, Authentication News and Holography News.