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23 January, 1997
Three Athens-based researchers yesterday formally presented a "revolutionary" cigarette filter they claim will make smoking less harmful for hundreds of millions of smokers around the world.
The three university professors unveiled their discovery to Greek and foreign newsmen at a press conference organized by the Greek Cooperative Tobacco Industry (SEKAP), the first cigarette producer in the world to introduce the "bio-filter" in its brands - expected for release on Feb. 1.
The researchers had announced details of their discovery at an international symposium last week.
As previously reported, the "bio-filter" resembles conventional cigarette filters in appearance, but its reportedly more innovative design screens out short-lived carcinogens that ordinary filters do not.
Athens University physiology professor Ioannis Stavridis said the basic component of the bio-filter is haemoglobin (the body's oxygen-carrier), which is found in the active carbon channels in pre-determined conditions of moisture and Ph. Its components provide effective protection from the solid phase of smoke (tar) as well as from the gas phase (oxygen free radicals, nitric oxide and its derivatives), without altering the taste of the cigarette and its aromatic elements.
The philosophy of the filter is simple, Prof. Stavridis says, and is based on the principle that free radicals react only with iron in the form in which it is found in the lung cells. Thus, before reaching the lung the filter, which contains iron bound to the heme of haemoglobin, acts as an artificial lung where all the reactions take place. In this way, the carcinogenic substances are trapped by the filter or neutralized, while those not trapped never make it to the lung due to their extremely short life-span (millionths of a second).
Prof. George Delikonstantinos, explaining the action mechanism of the filter, said the carcinogenic nitrozocompounds are blocked out, while the benzopyrene - one of the most powerful carcinogens - is metabolized and retained in the filter. He particularly stressed the biological filter's contribution to protecting passive smokers. Tests run among volunteers, he said, showed that the smoke exhaled from a cigarette with a biological filter is 40 times less toxic with respect to a quantity of oxygen free radicals and noxious nitrogen oxides.
On his part, Prof. Stephanos Geroulanos pointed out that at least 4,000 hazardous substances are freed with each puff on a cigarette, and despite the fact that tar and nicotine are considered as the main "culprits", there are many more substances that are equally hazardous, such as nitrogen monoxide, which when it enters the lungs activates the olveolar microphases, which in turn produce thousands to hundreds of thousands of free radicals. The more this figure rises, the easier the lung is destroyed, as emphysema is created.
The biological filter reduces all these substances by more than 70 per cent.
Ilias Seitanidis, the chairman of SEKAP, called on tobacco industries around the world to use the bio-filter in order to protect smokers and "passive smokers."
"Take our invention and use it," he said, adding that "we are not encouraging non-smokers to start smoking, but we are saying that those who do smoke could protect their health".
Source: Athens News Agency