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Roll your own cigarettes are not the safer option

Roll Up, Roll Up

Many smokers believe that roll-your-own or RYO cigarettes are not as harmful as manufactured cigarettes. Many RYO smokers change to smoking roll-ups rather than stop smoking in the mistaken belief that they will smoke less tobacco and inhale fewer toxic chemicals.   But hand-rolling tobacco is as just as harmful as the tobacco in manufactured cigarettes.  Research using roll-up cigarettes made by smokers, shows that the levels of nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals inhaled are often higher than those from bought cigarettes.  RYO cigarettes are more likely to cause mouth, throat and lung cancer as well as lung diseases such as emphysema and heart disease.

More information on the dangers of smoking roll-ups:

Help to stop smoking:;

Smoke yields from RYO cigarettes

Manufactured cigarettes undergo tests to show their ‘smoke yields’.  These figures indicate the amount of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide levels for each brand.  Because cigarettes made from hand-rolling tobacco are not standard, tests in the Laboratory of the Government Chemist show that the smoke yields of RYO cigarettes vary as a result of a number of factors.  These include:

·       Amount of tobacco used

·       Number of puffs taken

·       Porosity of the rolling paper

·       Use of a filter

·       Moisture content of the tobacco

Tar yields

Tar yields for roll-ups are higher than for most manufactured brands.  Researchers asked 26 regular RYO smokers to make a number of their usual roll-ups.  The researchers then tested the RYO cigarettes and showed that over half of the hand-rolled cigarettes gave tar yields above the current maximum level of 15 mg for manufactured cigarettes.  Tar contains most of the cancer-causing chemicals and lung irritants.

Nicotine yields

Nicotine yields from hand-rolled cigarettes are often higher than for manufactured cigarettes.  Less than one in ten cigarette brands in the UK has a declared nicotine yield above 1.5mg per cigarette in laboratory tests. Over three quarters of the RYO cigarettes in the study produced a nicotine yield above this level.

Humectants in hand rolling tobacco

There are more humectants in rolling tobacco than in manufactured cigarettes.  Humectants are added to prevent the tobacco from drying out and to make it taste smoother.   Humectants yield some very toxic chemicals such as acrolein.

Lack of filters

Filters in RYO cigarettes are not always used but they remove almost a half of the tar and nicotine. However, even with filters, smokers tend to compensate if they don’t get enough nicotine by smoking more or taking deeper puffs to ‘top-up’ nicotine levels.  Filters don’t reduce the carbon monoxide.

RYO smokers have higher nicotine dependence

A study compared addiction levels of RYO smokers with smokers who use the same number of manufactured cigarettes per day.  People who smoke roll-ups are generally more addicted to nicotine and are less likely to stop smoking.  Some highly addicted smokers use roll ups because it gives them more control over the nicotine ‘dose’.  

Who smokes roll-ups?

The majority of RYO smokers in the UK are older men.    A quarter of all male smokers use rolling tobacco.  Less than one in twenty women smokers uses RYO.  A third of poorer smokers use roll-ups because rolling tobacco is cheaper.   

Higher tar - lower tax

EU regulations for tar and nicotine levels in cigarettes do not apply to rolling tobacco even though most of the RYO cigarettes are more dangerous than manufactured cigarettes. Hand-rolling tobacco is taxed and priced at a lower level – about half that of packaged cigarettes.  In countries where cigarettes are cheap or rolling tobacco is expensive, very few people use RYO cigarettes.  In the Netherlands more than half of all tobacco smoked in the country is RYO because of price differences.

Reducing the use of RYO

Similar to manufactured cigarettes, tar and nicotine levels need to be restricted and smokers informed of the increased dangers of smoking without a filter.   Higher tax on rolling tobacco would encourage more RYO smokers to quit.



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