If you know someone whose New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking, a new finding may deter them from doing so. A recent study conducted by Cornell University found that lycopene and grape seed extract could serve as important elements to further filter out harmful free radicals that are found in cigarettes (which are believed to contribute to cancer). We think the development is important, but we have to wonder if it’ll also become an excuse for smokers to continue their habit.

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Lung cancer has been heavily linked to smoking and existing cigarette filters help to minimize the damaging effects of tar. However, tar only accounts for a part of the particle phase of what enters the body. The gas phase also contains harmful elements. Free radicals are highly carcinogenic, damaging protein structure, lipids and DNA sequences. They are not necessarily decreased by current filters but attempts have been made to diminish their hazardous effects. For instance, a ‘bio-filter’ that consisted of hemoglobin and activated carbon proved fruitful in diminishing free radical by 90% but was too costly to offer commercially. Shikonin, a component of Chinese herbal medicine, was also highly efficient.

The newest finding offers hope – or depending on how you see it – a continued excuse for current smokers. An inexpensive source of filtration derived from natural antioxidant extracts, lycopene and grape seed extract are both byproducts that could be derived from the tomato or wine industry, respectively. After immediately being inserted into cigarette filters, lycopene and grape seed extract were able to remove 90% of free radicals from the gas phase of cigarette smoke. They proved as successful as previously studied bio-filters but could be produced on a mass scale because of their relatively cheap cost. However, the efficiency of the natural extracts drastically diminished after a week of being stored at room temperature, something scientists will have to solve before releasing them on the market. Sorry smokers; for the moment it looks like you may have to stick to your New Year’s resolutions after all!

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Images © Amanda Silvana Coen