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Invisible Poisons

The tobacco industry is extremely careful not to fund studies of pesticide residues on its cigarette products in any country but particularly in the US. The industry is aware that if the extent of this chemical contamination were known, US regulators would have no choice but to call an end to industry’s game.

That may sound like a cold-blooded way to refer to the slaughter of untold millions of people across generations of smokers and their families, but you can be certain that as far as the tobacco industry is concerned it’s a game, and they’re playing for keeps.

There has only been one small study of pesticides in actual commercial cigarettes since the 1970’s, but if that study is at all representative of the state of the 2018 commercial cigarette market (parenthetical comment – it is) then regulators worldwide ought to be pulling cigarettes from shelves and running them through pesticide testing.

















Geiss, O., Kotzias, D., “Determination of Ammonium, Urea and Pesticide Residues in Cigarette Tobacco“. Fresenius Environmental Bulletin (FEB), No. 12 (2003), 1562– 1565

I can hear it now. “Well,  that data is from 2003. That was 15 years ago. And besides those pesticides aren’t permitted on tobacco anymore.”

Oh, really?

So, you would think that if nasty old Endosulfan, Heptachlor and 4,4-DDE, and a whole lot more organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides weren’t being used on tobacco anymore then the tobacco industry scientific organization CORESTA wouldn’t be publishing “good practice” guidelines in 2016 that lists acceptable limits on them – right?


Well, just because the tobacco industry chooses to publish good practice limits on those banned pesticides, that doesn’t mean they are still being used – right?

But they are being used worldwide and for the most part their use is unregulated and their presence in tobacco products goes totally undetected because it is never looked for.

Let’s look at pesticide use on tobacco in Brazil – as good a place to start as any. We could look at dozens of other countries, but Brazil is the biggest exporter of tobacco to the US. 

Note that Brazilian tobacco uses twice as much pesticide per hectare as cotton and three times as much as soybeans. That is significant – it means that the tobacco plants are drenched with these chemicals.



















Well, OK. So tobacco uses a lot of pesticides. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are using banned pesticides, or pesticides known to be dangerous if inhaled even in small doses on a chronic basis.

Actually, they are. If you click here and are a patient reader there’s all the evidence you’ll ever need that tobacco from Brazil is lethal – and not because it’s tobacco.

That link is a pretty detailed research piece that looks at the health impact of pesticides on tobacco farmers in Brazil, and in the process it talks in detail about the pesticides they are exposed to. Of course, these are the same pesticides whose residues wind up on Brazilian tobacco. Check it out.

So, it’s clear that a great many pesticides being used on tobacco in Brazil. This isn’t the only piece of evidence, by far. When you look at all the evidence, it is clear that banned organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides are being used intensively on Brazilian tobacco as recently as early 2018.

The reason that’s important is that all of the trash from the Brazilian tobacco industry – not the tobacco leaf, but the stems and waste from the factory floors – winds up being shipped to the US for manufacturing into American cigarettes. That tobacco trash and stems is if anything more heavily contaminated with pesticides than the tobacco leaf (because it includes systemic pesticides), which is kept in Brazil and Argentina for making cigarettes out of real leaf tobacco – the kind demanded by smokers in Latin America.

The contaminated tobacco trash is sent to the US, and look who’s bringing it in. (We’ll get to why in a minute.)



















That’s a whole lot of tobacco trash, isn’t it? Well, those are only the records of two shipments of toxic waste brought to the US by Big Tobacco. There are plenty more. Now, let’s talk about why they are bringing in all those tobacco stems from Brazil and other waste dumps on the planet.

It’s really pretty simple. The tobacco industry figured out years ago that American smokers didn’t really care what they were smoking, and since the tobacco companies could sell the actual leaf to Europeans and Latin Americans who cared, why not use all those stalks and stems and trash that they were just throwing away and figure out how to make cigarettes out of it?

Here’s a short video by Philip Morris showing in detail how they take tobacco waste and turn it into cigarettes. They treat this process as though it is a miraculous achievement. While you watch how this cigarette giant makes fake tobacco for American smokers, remember those pesticide residues on those millions of pounds of Brazilian tobacco waste they’re grinding up and bragging about.

There is major deception at @ 2:11-20. Can you can spot it now that you know about the pesticide residues in that trash they’re turning into cigarettes?

Click here for the video.

At this point you may be asking what contaminated Brazilian tobacco trash has to do with where we started – banned pesticides in commercial cigarettes in Europe, including two prominent American brands.

The relevance is that the banned pesticides in those 2003 EU cigarettes got into them exactly the same way that banned pesticides are getting into every US cigarette manufactured with Brazilian tobacco stems and trash in 2018 – except that the poisonous stems used by EU manufacturers in 2003 probably came from India rather than Brazil. The tobacco pesticide picture is virtually the same in both countries, which is to say that tobacco farmers and their families are being poisoned faster than flies, and the tobacco stems and trash that are being exported to Europe and to America are used for the same thing – to make fake tobacco cigarettes chock full of invisible poisons just like in the Philip Morris video above.

So where does that leave us? If you’ve read this far you’re in for a treat.

I live in Oregon, where Cannabis is tested every day for pesticide residues, so there are lots of labs that have the latest equipment and are run by very skilled folks. We’re going to be testing for a number of things, but I will be especially interested if we find organochlorines of recent application as I expect we will. A skilled lab can tell the difference between a pesticide that has been in the soil for 20 years and the same pesticide that has been applied recently.

I’m in the process of working with three of them to do some test runs on randomly-sampled commercial cigarettes by Philip Morris and RJR. (Just for fun I’m going to include my old friend “American Spirit”, and hope that we don’t find too many positives. That would be a shame after all those years of naturalness) The results are going to the Oregon Health Authority with a petition to set the same “Action Levels” on pesticide residues in tobacco that they now set on Cannabis, and for the same public health reasons.

Stay tuned.

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