A Major “Oops!” In Tobacco Research

Since the mid-1970s, operating through scientific research front organizations, the Tobacco Cartel has supplied “Kentucky Standard Reference Cigarettes” to researchers worldwide for use in Smoking & Health research.

Touted as the answer to a need for standardization in smoking and health research, these “Reference Cigarettes” are manufactured using tobacco straight from the commercial supply, blended and produced to give uniform, consistent and comparable resulting “smoke” to be used in research. This is intended to give scientific and medical researchers worldwide the confidence that they are all testing the same thing – and unfortunately they are, but they don’t have a clue that because they’re testing cigarettes, not tobacco, the results are not interchangeable. In fact, they are meaningfully different.

Here is hard data demonstrating that the smoke from commercial tobacco cigarettes is so much more than Tobacco. This isn’t about the additives, or flavors, or burn-rate chemicals, that have dominated the discussions around the bad things that manufacturers put it cigarettes, or even the combustion byproducts and toxic gasses given off by all burning materials. Kentucky Reference Cigarettes are presented as free of additives and other materials used in commercial cigarette manufacturing, so researchers don’t have to factor them in to their interpretations of the data.

This is about the complete absence of reference to a class of cigarette smoking hazards that have not been mentioned once in 50 years of the US Surgeon General’s “Reports On Smoking & Health”, or anywhere else. This is about somehow overlooked, or carefully concealed toxic mixture of man-made neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors, mutagens, obesogens and the other insecticides and fungicides that you can see below.

In this 2018 research on 5 popular brands the lab found 27 pesticides, all of them with known exposure consequences, and several banned due to extreme exposure hazards. None have ever been tested for exposure through inhalation in cigarette smoke. These pesticides are largely not combusted in smoking – instead they vaporize and dry-distill ahead of the burning cigarette coal and enter the smoke stream largely intact and in highly bioactive states. These pesticide aerosols are inhaled by every smoker with every puff, throughout the day, every day, and pesticide hazard information is never obtained by EPA with exposure regimens resembling the cigarette smoking scenario.

Diligent searching of worldwide research literature shows no mention of the presence of pesticides in “Kentucky Reference Cigarettes”, which means that they may never have been accounted for in analyzing smoking and health data. The negative effects of smoking are routinely and without thinking attributed to tobacco as if tobacco smoke is the equivalent of cigarette smoke, which you can see it is not. It’s likely that none of the “smoking & health” researchers have known or thought to look for and account for insecticide/fungicide residues in their “tobacco smoke” data, appears that anyone looking to get such research funded would find the doors firmly shut.

As you can see from the University of Kentucky Tobacco Research Center’s FOIA response below, they have somehow just never gotten around to looking for or even mentioning pesticides in their “reference standard” cigarettes. At least not in writing that they are willing to reveal. So -Oops! Somehow they must have missed those confounding variables that, when factored into all those “Tobacco smoking” research results, invalidate billions of dollars in research that has ignored or, worse, discounted their presence. Since the Tobacco Cartel’s scientific front organization CORESTA publishes data on pesticide residue levels in commercial tobacco leaf worldwide, and since “Reference Cigarettes” are produced with tobacco from ordinary commercial sources, it seems more than probable that the U of K Tobacco Research Center would have been aware of pesticide residue contaminants in their “Kentucky Reference Cigarettes” since the beginnings of the program.

Since I can find no exceptions, it appears to me that every smoking & health researcher, every scientific and medical non-profit and university, and every regulatory authority in the world has been misled and co-opted by the Tobacco Cartel through the Kentucky Reference Cigarette program. How is it possible that the subject of pesticide residues in cigarette smoke has received zero published scientific, medical or regulatory attention, and has been actively discounted and rejected by multiple Federal agencies, for 50 years and billions of dollars of smoking and health research? Not to mention the human toll of deaths from inhaling tobacco smoke infused with pesticides, unknown to the doctors who have been trying to treat them.

Don’t you love their slogan – “Discover what’s wildly possible!”. Yes, by all means, let’s discover what inhaled pesticides do to smokers completely independently of whatever tobacco may or may not do.

Let’s do some simple side-by-side testing of pesticide-free, USDA organic tobacco cigarettes with these so-called “reference standard cigarettes”. Isn’t it just “wildly possible” that inhaled pesticides are responsible for some portion of ‘smoking-related disease’, and not tobacco itself? How would we know, when virtually every ‘smoking & health’ study for almost 50 years has used these ‘reference’ standards in the belief that their data was from ‘tobacco’?

Tobacco has never been tested, only Kentucky Reference Cigarettes. This is classic Apples and Oranges.

All interpretations of smoking and health research based on Kentucky Reference Cigarettes are fatally flawed by these unseen highly bioactive confounding variables – and by the unquestioned assumption that Tobacco smoke and cigarette smoke are one and the same.

Please check these results again from the tests for “Smoke No Evil” in 2018. Although not widely read, this book documents this unrecognized hazard in a new way.

Now check the results of 2022 research by the Saudi Health Ministry – the first such data on commercial cigarettes published by any government in over 50 years. Interesting to see that both Marlboros and Camels are in both samples. The “Smoke No Evil” brands were selected randomly by the testing lab, whereas the Saudi brands were selected by ranking among Saudi smokers.

If you have questions about my assertion that researchers have no awareness of pesticides in Kentucky Reference cigarettes, check out a few representative articles like these and see if you find any reference to the presence of pesticides.

Evaluation of In Vitro Assays For Assessing the Toxicity of Cigarette Smoke and Smokeless Tobacco

Variation in tobacco and mainstream smoke toxicant yields from selected commercial cigarette products

Mainstream smoke constituents and in vitro toxicity comparative analysis of 3R4F and 1R6F reference cigarettes

Mainstream Smoke Chemistry and In Vitro and In Vivo Toxicity of the Reference Cigarettes 3R4F and 2R4F

For some additional perspective on the Tobacco Cartel con game and FDA complicity please see:


To emphasize the FDA’s complicity in maintaining this criminal fraud, check the warning they force on all advertising of the only pesticide-free tobacco cigarette alternative. What do you think the FDA’s game could possibly be here?

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