IDENTICAL twins may hold the key to developing a healthier cigarette, according to scientists at British American Tobacco’s Southampton research lab.
The researchers carried out the study comparing the health of siblings – one who smoked and the other who did not – to create “reduced risk” cigarettes.
Tests are already under way on smokers who have switched from commercial brands to a BAT prototype and the firm plans to release the results of the first clinical trials shortly.
Chief scientific officer Chris Proctor said: “The development of safer tobacco products is the holy grail of tobacco research. But in order to be able to demonstrate reduced risk for one or more smoking-related diseases scientists must have tools to objectively assess prototype products against conventional cigarettes.
“By studying monozygotic twin pairs, genetic variability has been excluded as a possible source of variability in this study and these results should assist the interpretation of other population studies using these biomarkers.
“A clearer pattern of the effects of lifestyle and environment should also become more apparent.”
The firm’s scientists looked at 24 sets of identical twins, between the ages of 23 and 46, to establish biomarkers showing which biological effects had elevated levels in smokers, which they could then aim to tackle with prototypes.
Ten such markers were established showing smokers exhaling more carbon monoxide had a higher heart rate and others associated with inflammatory conditions and the early stages of vascular disorder.
The tobacco giant employs 60,000 staff globally, including 1,000 in Southampton.
Amanda Sandford, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) research manager, said: “I imagine BAT bosses are hoping to get a lot of kudos from this, however we remain sceptical of the benefits of tinkering with the contents of cigarettes.
“There is no safe form of tobacco. The only way to avoid the risks is to stop smoking.
“Our concern would be that they will market this in such a way that people who may have considered giving up will keep smoking.
“They want to keep people buying cigarettes and smoking for as long as possible, that is what they are about.”
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