The Tar Test

So, What's New?

It's not news that there are many deadly chemicals associated with cigarette smoke, and that inhaling them into the lungs shortens life expectancy appreciably. Before these chemicals were publically identified, they were known as "tar" and the term was used in conjunction with its partner word, "nicotine."

Today, we know that tar refers to all of the chemicals in the cigarette and the concentration of tar in a cigarette determines the way it is rated. High-tar cigarettes contain at least 22 milligrams (mg) of tar, medium-tar cigarettes hold between 15mg to 21mg and low-tar cigarettes have 7mg of tar or less.

"We Have An Idea!"

Back in the 1950s, when news came out that cigarette smoking was linked to lung cancer, many cigarette companies determined to lessen the risk by adding filters to their cigarettes. Until then, cigarettes were tobacco rolled in paper, no filter. The idea of the filter was to trap tar and nicotine thus removing the risk of inhaling these poisons. However, the effort didn't manifest according to plan. Even with filters, toxins made their way into the lungs of smokers. The lungs were exposed to these deadly chemicals whether there was a filter or not.

Wow, It Really Does Look Like Tar

When tar is in its solid form it is a dark brown, tacky substance that stains a smoker's teeth and fingers. It is greasy and coats whatever it touches with a brownish-yellow film. This is what we can see with our naked eye. This very same coating sticks to the lungs of a smoker. It paralyzes the cilia in the lungs, those fine little hairs that serve as filters in the lungs, and this substance contributes to such diseases as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer.

Tar is present in all cigarettes, regardless of brand of claims, and the tar actually increases as the cigarette burns down. That means that the last puff on the cigarette may contain as much as twice the amount of tar as the first few puffs on the cigarette hold.

Take The Tar Test

Here is a small experiment to prove the point.

Using a white tissue, take a puff on a cigarette without drawing the smoke into the lungs. Just hold the smoke in the mouth and then cover the mouth with the tissue, holding it close to the mouth, and blow the smoke out through the tissue. You will notice a brown stain on the tissue where the smoke was blown out. That brown stain is tar.

Next, take another puff on the cigarette and draw the smoke into the lungs, as you would if you were inhaling when smoking a cigarette. Now, blow the smoke out through the tissue, as done above. You should notice that there is no brown stain, or at least, very little.

Where did the tar go?