Roll-up cigarettes are just as dangerous as ready-made ones

Roll-up cigarettes are just as dangerous as ready-made ones

Lots of people think that rolling their own cigarettes isn’t as bad for them as smoking ready-made ones.

But that’s not true – we’ve known for a long time that there’s no such thing as a ‘safe’ cigarette.

And now, a new study published in the journal Addiction Biology confirms that roll-your-own cigarettes are just as dangerous as factory-made ones.

Measuring chemical exposure

To find out how harmful the two types of cigarettes really are, the researchers calculated the levels of two groups of cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNA)) inside the bodies of smokers.

To do this, they took urine samples from smokers of both factory-made and roll-your-own cigarettes, and measured the levels of particular molecules that are made when our bodies break these tobacco chemicals down.

These levels are a reliable indicator of how much of the original, cancer-causing chemicals the smokers were exposed to. In short, they’re a good indicator of how bad one form of smoking is versus another.

People who smoked either ready-made or roll-your-own cigarettes had the same levels of both groups of chemicals, even when their age, sex, body mass index, ‘puffing behaviour’ (how long and how hard people puffed) and nicotine exposure were taken into account.

Although the research didn’t look at the other 60 or so carcinogens in tobacco smoke, the two that they studied are likely to play a major role in the development of cancer in smokers.

Worryingly, women had higher levels of both toxins in their bodies than men, no matter what type of cigarette they smoked. This is interesting, because there is some evidence that women seem to have a higher risk of developing lung cancer than men, taking into account the amount they smoke.

The authors of this latest study point out that we don’t know of any reasons for this, and call for more research to find out whether the effect is real, and if so, what might be causing it.

No less harmful

The results of this study suggest that roll-your-own cigarettes are just as dangerous as ready-made ones. And women may be in even more danger of developing smoking-related diseases than men.

The lead researcher, Dr. Lion Shahab, said:

Many smokers believe that roll-your-own cigarettes are more ‘natural’ and therefore are less harmful than manufactured cigarettes. The current findings suggest that this is not the case.

There is some evidence that female smokers may be more likely to develop lung cancer than male smokers. These findings suggest that women in particular may be at greater risk because they accumulate higher concentrations of cancer causing chemicals in their body whether they smoke roll-your-own or manufactured cigarettes.

We’ve said many times before that there’s no safe cigarette. And this latest study adds yet more evidence to the already-large pile showing the harm caused by smoking.

Giving up smoking is the best present you will ever give yourself. Your health will improve from the moment you quit, you’ll save money, and you could be happier too. Your doctor can give you help and support to give up smoking.



Shahab, L., West, R., & McNeill, A. (2009). A comparison of exposure to carcinogens among roll-your-own and factory-made cigarette smokers Addiction Biology, 14 (3), 315-320 DOI: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2009.00157.x