Effect of Charcoal in Cigarette Filters on Free Radicals in Mainstream Smoke

The addition of charcoal in cigarette filters may be an effective means of reducing many toxicants from tobacco smoke. Free radicals are a highly reactive class of oxidants abundant in cigarette smoke, and here we evaluated the effectiveness of charcoal to reduce free radical delivery by comparing radical yields from commercially available cigarettes with charcoal-infused filters to those without and by examining the effects of incorporating charcoal into conventional cigarette filters on radical production. Commercial cigarettes containing charcoal filters produced 40% fewer gas-phase radicals than did regular cellulose acetate filter cigarettes when smoked using the International Organization of Standardization (ISO, p = 0.07) and Canadian Intense (CI, p < 0.01) smoking protocols. While mean-particulate-phase radicals were 25–27% lower in charcoal cigarettes, differences from noncharcoal products were not significant (p = 0.06–0.22). When cellulose acetate cigarette filters were modified to incorporate different types and amounts of activated charcoal, reductions in gas-phase (>70%), but not particulate-phase, radicals were observed. The reductions in gas-phase radicals were similar for the three types of charcoal. Decreases in radical production were dose-responsive with increasing amounts of charcoal (25–300 mg) with as little as 25 mg of activated charcoal reducing gas-phase radicals by 41%. In all studies, charcoal had less of an effect on nicotine delivery, which was decreased 33% at the maximal amount of charcoal tested (300 mg). Overall, these results support the potential consideration of charcoal in cigarette filters as a means to reduce exposure to toxic free radicals from cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products.