Video: Safe cigarettes?

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updated 11/8/2005 4:55:09 PM ET 2005-11-08T21:55:09

A British tobacco company says cigarettes can be safer.  Next year, the company hopes to launch a cigarette it says cuts the risk of smoking-related diseases by up to 90 percent. 

Is that the proper solution to a healthier lifestyle or just masking a greater problem?

Patrick Reynolds, grandson of tobacco company founder R.J. Reynolds and an opponent of the smoking industry, says we don't know enough about these cigarettes.  He talked to MSNBC-TV's Tucker Carlson about the issue, and what the tobacco industry doesn't want consumers to do.

TUCKER CARLSON, SITUATION HOST: Sir, we don‘t know if this cigarette works from BAT, the British tobacco company.  But there‘s no reason to think it might not kind of work.  I mean, tobacco companies famously have a lot of control over what‘s in their product.  There are a lot of chemists on staff. 

Why couldn‘t they figure out a cigarette that‘s less harmful?

PATRICK REYNOLDS, FOUNDATION FOR A SMOKEFREE AMERICA: Tucker, the tobacco industry is in the job of selling cigarettes and selling a product.  And they want their customers to go on using it. 

CARLSON: And to go on living, though, because dying smokers don‘t help the tobacco industry.  People who get emphysema and lung cancer, hurt the tobacco industry. 

So they have every incentive to try to figure out a cigarette that delivers the nicotine but that doesn‘t cause these illnesses.  Why isn‘t that a good thing?

REYNOLDS: Understood.  We don‘t know if it‘s a good thing.  It takes about 25 or 30 years on average to get the lung cancer and heart disease that smoking causes, so we won‘t have reliable data for at least 30 years on whether this thing works or not, and honestly, maybe it‘s like jumping out of the 15th floor instead of jumping out of the 20th floor to smoke these cigarettes. 

CARLSON: Yes, but here‘s what we do know.  We know a couple of things.  We know people keep smoking almost no matter what the evidence is.  They know it‘s terrible, and keep doing it.  We could talk for an hour, Al the bad things smoking does, but they smoke.  We also know 160,000 people die of lung cancer in this country every year, so why aren‘t we declaring a war not just on smoking but on the carcinogens in cigarettes? Why don‘t we have some massive federal program devoted to making a safer cigarette? That is such an obvious choice, I don‘t know why it hasn‘t been made so far, do you?

REYNOLDS: The point is that smokers are going to keep smoking.  A lot are.  I was a smoker, and I smoked for gosh, 17 years.  They want to keep smokers smoking.  If they think there‘s a safer cigarette out there, maybe I can go on smoking, but we don‘t know how safe it is.  That‘s the problem. 

Sure, fine to take some of the carcinogens out, but smoke going into your lungs, burnt particles in the air, is probably a problem here.  We won‘t have any reliable data on this new cigarette for decades to come. 

CARLSON: Right.  But I was kind of surprised by the response from anti-smokers.  I mean, I understand why people are against smoking, absolutely, because it kills so many Americans. 

On the other hand, you‘d think anti-smoking groups would be thrilled by the news.  You‘d also think those same groups, your group among them, would be pushing for more funding for lung cancer.  Here you have every lung death in the country gets about $1,700 in funding, for lung cancer, per death.  AIDS, $163,000 per AIDS death.  This was last year‘s number.

Now, I‘m not saying AIDS funding should be cut.  I‘m merely saying, shouldn‘t there be a movement, led by people like you, to fund lung cancer research so we can stop all these deaths?

REYNOLDS: I think there is a movement to fund lung cancer research, of course, but to make a cigarette, no, I don‘t think that that‘s necessarily appropriate.  To help a corporation make a product, which on it‘s going to make billions every year.

Tucker, around the world today, one out of every three adults living on the planet smoke. 

CARLSON: Right. 

REYNOLDS: We have a one in five smoking rate, give or take, but in Japan and Asia and China, when you average those in, one in three adults on the planet are addicted to tobacco.  Almost all of them started as children, as teenagers. 

CARLSON: Right. 

REYNOLDS: Now, to get them to stop is practically impossible, and this is a product which, when used as directed, causes mass death.  We expect that of the one-third of the world pastor population now addicted to tobacco, 40 percent is going to die because they‘re smoking. 

CARLSON: I absolutely believe that that‘s true.  If you can cut the carcinogens in cigarettes, by even a small percentage, you could save millions of lives.  That is great news.  I hope it‘s true. 

REYNOLDS: We encourage people to go on to smoke a so-called safer cigarette is just inappropriate, helps these companies continue selling their deadly products, making money.  We don‘t know, Tucker, how much safer it really is. 

Watch 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson' each weeknight at 11 p.m. ET

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