Tobacco Smoke Aggressiveness

John Howard, M.D., Chief, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, testified on TTS in a 20 Oct 1994 hearing before the California Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment that “tobacco smoke travels from its point of generation in a building to all other areas of the building. It has been shown to move through light fixtures, through ceiling crawl spaces, and into and out of doorways.” This aggressive activity of TTS violates the right to “fresh and pure air,” as the inherent dangerous nature and action of TTS constitutes it as “ultrahazardous activity.”

Tobacco Radioactivity

Tobacco radioactivity is high “the radiation dose from radium and polonium found naturally in tobacco can be a thousand times more than that from the caesium 137 taken up by the leaves from the Chernobyl nuclear accident,” says the article “Tobacco’s radiation dose far higher than leaves at Chernobyl” ( news service, 2 June 2007). Note that “the average radiation dose that would be received by people smoking 30 cigarettes a day . . . was 251 microsieverts a year, compared with 0.199 from Chernobyl fallout in the leaves” (Radiation Protection Dosimetry, vol 123, p 68).

See also “Radioactive Smoke A Reader Poll and Declassified Documents about Polonium in Cigarettes” (Scientific American January 2011).

For background, see Edward A. Martell, Ph.D. (Radiochemistry), “Tobacco Radioactivity and Cancer in Smokers,” 63 American Scientist 404 412 (July August 1975). “The remarkable concentrations of 210Pb on small Aitken particles, on tobacco trichomes, and in insoluble cigarette smoke particles dramatically illustrate . . . concentration and fractionation processes. Similarly remarkable concentration and fractionation processes are involved in the inhalation, deposition, retention, clearance, and accumulation of insoluble particles in the lung and other organs. . . . the particles are confined to less than a gram of lung tissue, in which the alpha disintegration rate is more than 1,000 times that of dissolved natural alpha activity. . . Giving rise to a substantial increase in the number of alpha induced structural changes in chromosomes and thus in the tumor risk,” p 411.

Previously Edward A. Martell, Ph.D., had said in 249 Nature 217 (1974), ‘Thus, it seems that alpha radiation from Polonium 210 in insoluble smoke particles may be the primary agent of bronchial cancer in smoking.” “Because 210Pb has a radioactive half life of 22 years, the body burden of the radioactive 210 Pb and its radioactive daughter products 210Bi (bismuth 210) and 210Po can continue to build up throughout the period of smoking . . . In addition, insoluble dust particle accumulations in the lung and lymph nodes may ulcerate into adjoining blood vessels and be carried elsewhere in via the blood circulation. Thus long term exposure to insoluble particles of respirable size leads to their accumulation in the lung. Lymph nodes, liver, bone marrow, and elsewhere,” p 404.

“Alpha emitting particles in bone marrow may destroy many of the rapidly multiplying cells that produce the blood platelets which assist in the control of blood clotting. . . . In addition, the gradual increase in alpha radiation induced chromosomal structural changes may be expected to contribute to the whole pattern of degenerative diseases of the cardiovascular and renal system,” p 408.

“Irradiation of endothelial cells of the artery wall has been shown to render them highly permeable to the passage of red cells, lymphocytes, small particles, lipids, cholesterol, etc., allowing their exchange between the blood and the intima of the artery wall. In addition, irradiation of arterial tissue results in morphologic changes, including radionecrosis and inflamation of the surrounding endothelial cells, radiation damage to red cells, and possible degeneration of lipids due to breakdown of red cells,” p 410. “Study Tobacco firms’ own research showed dangers” (September 2011), says “Tobacco companies knew for decades that cigarette smoke was radioactive and potentially carcinogenic but kept that information from the public.”

Radioactive polonium is “being absorbed through the pulmonary circulation and carried by the systemic circulation to every tissue and cell, causing mutations . . . deviation of cellular characteristics . . . and early death from a body wide spectrum of disease.” R. T. Ravenholt, M.D., M. Ph., 307 New Engl J Med (#5) 312 (29 July 1982).

This “deteriorates and contaminates every organ and tissue with which it comes in contact in the body.” Theodore Frech and Luther Higley, The Evils of Tobacco and Cigarettes (Butler, Indiana The Higley Printing Co, 1916), p 20.

“Smoking bad for you inside and out” (13 July 2008) (article by a doctor on damage that smoking does to the body, inside and out, including the skin, e.g., causes wrinkles an effect reported as long ago as 1857.)

Such data on radioactivity rendering artery walls “highly permeable to the passage of red cells” helps explain what was described a century ago “Autopsies have revealed large foci of softening in the brain, hemorrhages into the meninges, and capillary apoplexies in the brain substance.” G. W. Jacoby, 50 New York Medical Journal 172 (17 August 1889). Also, “Ecchymosis occurs in the pleura and peritoneum. Hyperemia of the lungs, brain, and cord is found. . . . Coarse lesions have been found in the brain and spinal cord.” L. P. Clark, 71 Medical Record (26) 1073 (29 June 1907).

“A single burning cigarette in a closed room gives rise to particle concentrations of approximately 105 per cm3 . . . Extemely concentrated cloud of particles and vapors in mainstream smoke . . . Radon progeny on large mainstream smoke particles will be deposited in the tracheobronchial tree with a highly nonuniform distribution. Deposition in the right upper lobe of the human lung may approach twice that in the other four lobes . . . . Such particles are deposited with higher surface densities in the lobar and segmental bronchi than elsewhere within each lung lobe . . . selective deposition at bifurcations takes place for particles in both the diffusion and impaction subranges and results in highly localized hot spots’ at bifurcations. The hot spot intensities increase steeply with particle size . . . .” E. A. Martell, “d Radiation dose at Bronchial Bifurcations of Smokers from Indoor Exposure to Radon Progeny,” 80 Proc Nat’l Acad Sci, U.S.A. 1285 1289 (March 1983), at p 1286.

Also, “due to progressive damage to the epithelium at bifurcations of smokers, leading to lesions with loss of cilia . . . particle retention times . . . increase with smoking rate and duration of smoking in years. Albert et al. . . . demonstrated that most cigarette smokers had bronchial clearance, with an average half time of 172 min. Particles that resist clearance would include those deposited at bifurcations in lesions with cilia absent. Particle half residence times of 172 min are sufficient for nearly complete decay of 214Po from deposited radon progeny associated with smoke tars . . . the bronchial epithelium is incapable of absorbing ore than negligible amounts of tar further indication that radon progeny associated with smoke tar particles deposited at bifurcations may persist for substantial . . . decay of 214Po before clearance,” p 1287.

“210Pb enriched smoke particles produced by tobacco trichome combustion are highly insoluble.” “That inhaled tobacco tars are highly concentrated at segmental bifurcations of cigarette smokers is borne out by several lines of evidence. . . Ermala and Holsti . . . observed highly localized tar deposits in the tonsillar region, at the vocal cords, and at the tracheal and bronchial bifurcations sites closely correlated with the clinical frequency of cancer of respiratory tract ins smokers. . . Little et al. . . . observed high local concentrations of 210Po at individual bifurcations of smokers
,” p 1287.

“The age related incidence of bronchial cancer in smokers, duration of smoking in years to the fifth power, indicates a multistage process of cancer induction involving at least two stages of DNA transformation.” “Brues pointed out . . . that tumors arise focally in small irradiated tissue volumes,” p 1289.

A National Academy of Sciences report released June 30, 2005, finds that there is no safe level of radiation exposure.

“Radioactivity in Cigarette Smoke,” by T. H. Winters and J. R. DiFranza, in 306 New Engl J of Med (#6) 364 365 (11 Feb 1982), indicates that “cells close to an alpha source receive high doses. . . . Alpha emitters in cigarette smoke result in appreciable radiation exposure to the bronchial epithelium of smokers and probably secondhand smokers.” Also, “After inhalation, ciliary action causes the insoluble radioactive particles to accumulate at the bifurcation of segmental bronchi, a common site of origin of broncogenic carcinomas.” Those “cells close to an alpha source receive high doses,” for example, “a dose of 1000 rems.” Winters and Di Franza thus conclude that “The detrimental effects of tobacco smoke have been considerably underestimated, making it less likely that chemical carcinogens alone are responsible for the observed incidence of tobacco related carcinoma.”

The article, “Environmental Radiation Hazards,” by Alan Steinfeld, in 22 American Family Physician (#4) 95 99 (Oct 1980), indicates at 96 “guidelines for exposure. For occupationally exposed workers, the level is 5 rems (5,000 mrems) per year . . . . Members of the general public are permitted one tenth of this amount, or 0.5 rem (500 mrems) per year.” Cf. “a dose of 1000 rems,” words from Winters and Di Franza. Steinfield indicates, at 98, “By comparison, the average annual dose to the U.S. population from nuclear reactors under normal operating conditions is 0.002 mrem per year. The dose rate at the boundary of a nuclear facility is legally limited to no more than 5 mrems per year.”

The radioactivity in TTS enhances its “ultrahazardous” nature and impact and foreseeably impacts nonsmokers also, as some decades of data shows “About 50 percent of cancer attributed to smoking could be caused by radioactivity, according to Drs. Thomas H. Winter and Joseph R. Di Franza, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. . . .

“In the lungs of some persons smoking 1 packs of cigarettes per day are areas of radiation concentration equivalent to 300 X rays annually. The particles tend to collect at the branches of the bronchial tubes, a common location for cancers to occur. . . . .

“Radiation is emitted by polonium 210 and lead 210, which are found in tobacco filaments and insoluble particles in tobaccco smoke.

“Winters and Di Franza say the studies also contain some evidence that the radioactivity affects nonsmokers as well. They say 75 percent of the radiation in cigarette smoke enters the air and could be inhaled by those who work or associate with smokers.

“‘The detrimental effects of tobacco smoke have been considerably underestimated, making it less likely that chemical carcinogens alone are responsible for the observed incidence of tobacco related carcinoma,’ the doctors report.” “Half of ‘Smoking’ Cancers Caused by Radiation,” 28 Smoke Signals (4) 8 (April 1982).

The radiation poisoning death of ex Russian KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006 brought a renewed interest in the cigarette contaminant Polonium 210. A confidential Philip Morris (PM) memo from 1980 written by Roger Comes (a Associate Senior Scientist in PM’s Research and Development department in Richmond, Virginia) responds to news reports about a research article that was published at the time by Edward Martell that revealed that cigarette smoke contained low levels of the radioactive alpha particle emitting constituent Polonium 210. The memo confirms that PM was aware at that time that smoke from their cigarettes contained radioactive lead and polonium, and that it was derived from the uranium contained in the calcium phosphate fertilizers that farmers regularly used on tobacco growing soils. Comes states that “210 Pb radioactive lead and 210 Po radioactive polonium are present in tobacco and smoke….”

He also suggested that switching to another fertilizer could probably help the situation

” ammonium phosphate instead of calcium phosphate as fertilizer is probably a valid but expensive point…”

What most news stories about this fail to say is that, while weapons grade pure Polonium 210 is rare, we have all been exposed to hazardous amounts of Polonium 210 mixed with other carcinogens and poisons. Polonium 210 is one of three radioactive elements in tobacco smoke. A smoker inhales an average of .04 picocuries of Polonium 210 per cigarette, and nonsmokers in the same room typically receive about 10% that amount. A single atom of Polonium 210 lodged in the lung could be the trigger that initiates a fatal lung cancer, and the risk increases with greater exposure. Polonium 210 is part of the toxicology reason that TTS kills an estimated 53,000 US nonsmokers annually.

Thomas Dennen in a November 2006 article, “SMOKERS YOU ARE INHALING THE SAME RADIOACTIVE POISON THAT KILLED Russian ex spy Alexander Litvinenko! When Did Governments (and tobacco companies) Know About Polonium 210 and How Long Have They Known?,” says, “Polonium 210 is found in trace amounts in cigarette smoke and is the major reason it causes cancer. Polonium 210 is the only component of cigarette smoke that has produced cancers by itself in laboratory animals by inhalation tumors appear at a level FIVE TIMES LOWER than the dose to a heavy smoker.”

Robert N. Proctor, Ph.D., in “Puffing on Polonium” (New York Times, 1 December 2006), says, “When the former K.G.B. agent Alexander V. Litvinenko was found to have been poisoned by radioactive polonium 210 last week, there was one group that must have been particularly horrified the tobacco industry. The industry has been aware at least since the 1960s that cigarettes contain significant levels of polonium. . . .”

More information on radioactivity in cigarettes, and generally, can be obtained at

  • Philip Morris’ website, / using the search engine term, “radioactive cigarettes,” and
  • Lorillard’s website, For radioactivity data, click here.
  • /
  • For tobacco lobby effort to debunk such ingredients data, see this 25 July 1974 data.

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