Pig’s Blood in Cigarettes?

You may have heard the claim that some “cigarettes contain pig’s blood”*. While I’ve heard this claim numerous times, not being a smoker I have never bothered to look into it until more recently. The primary source of this story was a 2010 media release quoting University of Sydney Professor in Public Health Simon Chapman,

“Many devout Islamic and Jewish smokers and some vegetarians would be horrified to think they were putting a filter in their mouth which contained a pig product.”

Professor Chapman was not the only who raised the alarm. Mohammad Reza Madani, an official from the Iranian Society for Fighting Smoking, spoke out calling it a zionist conspiracy and papers through out the Muslim world reprinted the story. What is being vaguely implicated is the use of the blood protein hemoglobin, in this case derived from a pig, in some cigarette filters. Unfortunately most iterations of this new story were light on facts, leading many to be confused about how widespread this issue actually is. Of course, that may very well have been Professor Chapman’s intent.

The Bio-filter.

The issue came to light largely due to the publication of PIG 05049 by Dutch artist Christien Meindertsma. The work details the many and varied end uses for a single pig, pig number 05049, as its parts are shipped around the world. Among a number of items including medicine, photo paper,  brakes, chewing gum, porcelain, & cosmetics, cigarette filters are mentioned. This filter, The Bio-Filter (marketed as Choice filter in the US & Canada), was designed to reduce some gaseous carcinogens and be safer (though this is doubtful 1, 2, 3). This filter, created by Greek researchers, gained some popularity due to advertisements that it was healthier, though it never came to dominate the market. Its market status now is difficult to ascertain but it does not appear to be in widespread use. In the end it makes a sensational headline but is a non-issue relative to the many legitimate concerns surrounding tobacco and the tobacco industry. I find Professor Chapman’s expressed concern for vegetarians a bit disingenuous, as a dedicated anti-tobacco activist Chapman appears more concerned with advancing his cause than protecting others ethical sensibilities.

While the bio-filter may have been a well meaning (though counterproductive) attempt to reduce the harmful effects of smoking, there are other companies who appear a bit more cynical. Take for example the bio-card, this device which looks like a typical credit card is meant to be slipped into a pack a cigarettes where it will use its “13 macromolecular composite technology” to  “reduce more than 60% harmful substance in cigarette”. The vague mechanism and accompanying “evidence” for this products is laughable and hardly needs pointing out how ridiculous it is. Scam harm reduction and smoking cessation aids and claims abound and only serve to confuse the public. Tobacco is a serious public health issue intertwined with issues of personal liberty, there are no easy answers and relying on top-down regulation isn’t sufficient, the public must become informed so as to make the best decisions for themselves and society.

There is no doubt in my mind that not smoking is the safer choice, but as long as there is the desire to smoke and availability of tobacco products, people need accurate information on which to make informed choices. I don’t wish to encourage anyone to smoke cigarettes, but I also do not want to stand by misinformation even when it serves my desires. Nor do I wish people to be fooled into a “safer” way of smoking when the evidence for benefit is lacking. For those looking for science-base information tobacco and smoking cessation please visit the CDC’s Smoking & Tobacco Use page. For those who already smoke but are not yet ready to quit, you may wish to explore harm reduction, there are some options available that could improve your quality of life.

Further Reading:
Nuclear Cigarettes

*This is not the only animal product claimed to be in some cigarettes.

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4 Responses to “Pig’s Blood in Cigarettes?”

  1. lynn Says:

    If I’m not mistaken, the list submitted is not all of the additives used in cigarettes, but all that could POTENTIALLY be used, which would be anything they can legally put into them (AKA any approved food additive).

  2. Carl V Phillips Says:

    SV, sorry for the late comment — I am way behind on my blogging. Thanks for the shout-out to TobaccoHarmReduction.org.

    Chapman is an exceptionally dishonest member of the already quite dishonest world of anti-smoking. As far as anyone can tell, he will say anything that he thinks will further one of his pet causes, without any regard to whether or not it is true (which is a bit — a bit! — worse than average for the anti-tobacco zealots). I have experienced remarkable parallels between anti-smoking and pro-vegan zealotry, particularly this “say anything, regardless of truth, because we are doing God’s Work” attitude (though in Chapman’s case, I think it is pure ego rather than any higher calling).

    You just gotta laugh at them. This attitude seems especially necessary when dealing with people who are worried about a sixth-decimal-place level rounding error in their pet cause. Here is bad news for anyone who would worry about something like this: Even for strict “no pork” adherents, I would guess that there are something in the order of millions of molecules in your body that once were part of a pig that was killed for food, which found their way into you through various pathways. This is to say nothing of those molecules that you come into possession of but do not ingest, like hemoglobin in a filter tip.

  3. 15 Surprising Things That Are Partly Made From Animal Products | Business Insider Says:

    […] derived from pig’s blood is — or at least once was — included in some cigarette […]

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