Health officials have known for decades that smoking cigarettes causes disease in nearly every organ of the human body and that animal tests are poor predictors of these effects. Yet tobacco companies and the contract laboratories that they hire continue to conduct cruel, irrelevant animal tests on new and existing products.
In tests that many people don’t realize are still being conducted, animals are forced to breathe cigarette smoke for up to six hours straight, every day, for as long as three years. Animals naturally avoid breathing cigarette smoke, so lab rats are forced into tiny canisters, and cigarette smoke is pumped directly into their noses. In the past, dogs and monkeys have had tubes attached to holes in their necks or have had masks strapped to their faces to force smoke into their lungs. In other commonly conducted tests, mice and rats have cigarette tar applied directly to their bare skin to induce the growth of skin tumors.
Specific examples of cigarette experiments include the following:
• In a study to test the effects of adding ingredients such as honey, sugar, molasses, plum juice, lime oil, chocolate, cocoa, and coffee extract to cigarettes, experimenters with Philip Morris stuffed thousands of rats into tiny canisters that pumped tobacco smoke directly into their noses six hours a day for 90 consecutive days. The rats were then killed and dissected to examine the harm caused to their bodies.1
• To test the effects of using high-fructose corn syrup to flavor cigarettes, experimenters at R.J. Reynolds spread cigarette tar on the skin of more than 1,000 mice and rats and then forced them to breathe cigarette smoke. Many of the mice who had tar spread on their skin died during the study. Other mice had their skin peel off, and they developed skin tumors. All the surviving animals were killed and dissected.2
• Philip Morris experimenters subjected 1,000 rats to two years of breathing either diesel engine exhaust or secondhand cigarette smoke for six hours a day, seven days a week, just to compare the effects of the exposure on their lungs.3
Companies also conduct animal experiments to test new cigarette papers, tobacco mixtures, and so-called “safer” cigarettes. Under the guise of developing treatments to “help” smokers, experimenters torture animals with taxpayers’ money. At the Oregon National Primate Research Center, for instance, dozens of pregnant rhesus monkeys had tubes surgically implanted in order to subject them to a continuous flow of nicotine for the last four months of their pregnancies. A few days before full term, experimenters cut the fetuses out of the mothers and killed and dissected the preterm babies in order to determine the effects of nicotine exposure on their bodies.4
Tobacco products and their ingredients are not required by U.S. law to be tested on animals—and for good reason. Manufacturers can effectively use in vitro (non-animal) technology, human-based research methods, and the existing body of knowledge from human epidemiological and clinical studies about the health concerns associated with smoking. Tobacco industry scientists have concluded that “in vitro toxicology tests can be successfully used both for better understanding the biological activity of cigarette smoke … and for guiding the development of cigarettes with reduced toxicity.”5
None of the aforementioned cruel animal experiments would even be legal if conducted in Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Slovakia, or the U.K., where tobacco product and ingredient tests on animals have been banned.6-10
Animal tests are not only cruel but also irrelevant to human health. Different animals have different reactions to toxins, and animals in laboratories aren’t exposed to cigarette smoke in the same manner or time frame as human smokers are.
The link between tobacco and lung cancer in humans was obscured for years because data collected from experiments on animals did not show this relationship. A recent article by a tobacco industry consultant reported that results from years of cigarette inhalation studies on rats, mice, hamsters, dogs, and nonhuman primates did not show significant increases in cancerous tumor development and were “clearly at variance with the epidemiological evidence in smokers, and it is difficult to reconcile this major difference between observational studies in humans and controlled laboratory studies now in five different animal species.”11
The Way Forward
PETA has been pushing tobacco companies to end experiments on animals for more than a decade. In 2005, PETA began a shareholder campaign by filing a resolution with Altria. Since the FDA was given authority to regulate tobacco in 2009, PETA has submitted scientific comments on numerous occasions urged the agency not to require tests on animals and allow tobacco companies to submit data from modern non-animal safety tests. PETA has filed shareholder resolutions with Philip Morris International and RJ Reynolds calling on them to end experiments on animals. In 2013, Lorillard Tobacco issued a policy banning all animal testing unless such tests become required by federal regulations in the future.12
What You Can Do
To quote the National Cancer Institute, “There is no safe tobacco product.”13 We already know from clinical research—and from basic common sense—that smoking is bad for us. If you still use tobacco products, seek out companies such as Imperial Tobacco, Nat Sherman, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco that have official policies against testing their products on animals.
If the tobacco industry wants to continue developing and marketing products that cause addiction and kill people, it should do so without the help of the government and without harming animals. You can write to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and request that it follow the lead of agencies in progressive countries by banning tobacco product and ingredient tests on animals:
Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee
Center for Tobacco Products
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Document Control Center
Building 71, Room G335
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002
1Charles L. Gaworski et al., “An Evaluation of the Toxicity of 95 Ingredients Added Individually to Experimental Cigarettes: Approach and Methods,” Inhalation Toxicology 23 (2011): 1-12.
2Mari S. Stavanja et al., “Safety Assessment of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) as an Ingredient Added to Cigarette Tobacco,” Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology 57 (2006): 267-81.
3Walter Stinn et al., “Chronic Nose-Only Inhalation Study in Rats, Comparing Room-Aged Sidestream Cigarette Smoke and Diesel Engine Exhaust,” Inhalation Toxicology 17 (2005): 549-76.
4Theodore A. Slotkin et al., “Prenatal Nicotine Exposure in Rhesus Monkeys Compromises Development of Brainstem and Cardiac Monoamine Pathways Involved in Perinatal Adaptation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Amelioration by Vitamin C,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 33 (2011): 431-4.
5Cristina Andreoli et al., “A Review of in Vitro Methods to Assess the Biological Activity of Tobacco Smoke With the Aim of Reducing the Toxicity of Smoke,” Toxicology in Vitro 17 (2003): 587-94.
6Frieda Brepoels, “Parliamentary Questions,” European Parliament, 16 Mar. 2009.
7Prof Parve, National Regulations on Ethics and Research in Estonia, European Commission 2003.
8The German government, “Animal Welfare Act,” Federal Law Gazette I 1998.
9Jozef Glasa, “Slovak Republic—Regulations on Ethics and Research,” First Clinical Research, accessed 20 Jan. 2019.
10Home Office, Guidance on the Operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, Ch. 5, Sec. 5.23, accessed 20 Jan. 2019.
11C.R.E. Coggins, “A Minireview of Chronic Animal Inhalation Studies With Mainstream Cigarette Smoke,” Inhalation Toxicology 14 (2002): 991-1002.
12Michael Felberbaum, “Cigarette Maker Lorillard Bans Animal Testing After PETA Intervention,” Associated Press 24 February 2014.
13National Cancer Institute, “Harms of Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting,” 19 Dec. 2017.