By Heather Moore
The Great American Smokeout was November 18. While everyone knows that smoking is harmful to humans, contributing to cancer, coronary heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses, relatively few people realize that animals are also dying because of cigarettes. Not only can our beloved animal companions develop cancer from secondhand smoke, just as humans can, monkeys, mice, rats and other animals are cruelly killed in irrelevant laboratory experiments funded by big tobacco companies and government agencies.
If you care about animals, you can do something to stop these deadly experiments: Stop smoking.
Studies published this year show that animals are still being used to test the “safety” of cigarette ingredients—and to determine whether harmful substances are actually, um, harmful—even though non-animal test methods are readily available. For example, in order to test the safety of a compound that’s used to keep tobacco moist, experimenters with Philip Morris stuffed more than 500 rats into tiny canisters and forced tobacco smoke into their noses six hours a day for 90 consecutive days. The rats were then killed and dissected.
Experimenters funded by R.J. Reynolds spread concentrated cigarette smoke particles on more than 800 rats’ skin three times a week for more than four months so that they would develop skin tumors. These rats were also then killed and cut apart.
Researchers have also laced animals’ food with tobacco in order to study the effects of ingesting smokeless tobacco. Not surprisingly, the animals suffered devastating health problems, including damaged eyes, skin and internal organs; weight loss; and genital swelling.
We already know that pregnant women who smoke—or are exposed to smoke—endanger their unborn babies, but that didn’t stop experimenters at the University of California–Davis from locking eight pregnant rhesus monkeys into chambers and exposing them to smoke for six hours a day, five days a week during the last two months of the monkeys’ pregnancies. The experimenters continued to pump cigarette smoke into the enclosures for two months after the babies were born. When the babies were 2 1/2 months old, they were taken from their mothers, killed and dissected so that experimenters could see how the smoke had affected their arteries.
Versions of these inhumane and unnecessary experiments have been conducted before. In previous years, researchers exposed pregnant monkeys to nicotine to observe its detrimental effects on their fetuses, made mice and rats breathe cigarette smoke to test the effects of adding high-fructose corn syrup to cigarettes as a flavoring agent, cut live dogs’ chests open to study how cigarette smoke causes airway irritation and much more.
None of these cruel experiments is required by U.S. law—American Spirit cigarettes are not tested on animals—and they wouldn’t even be legal if conducted in Belgium, Germany or the U.K., where smoking experiments on animals have been banned.
PETA has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban smoking experiments on animals in America as well. Non-animal test methods are readily available and are more relevant to humans; in fact, all the tobacco product tests required in Canada are non-animal tests. Animals don’t make good models for humans. Different animals have different reactions to toxins, and animals in laboratories aren’t exposed to nicotine in the same manner, or time frame, as humans. Besides, we already know from clinical research—and from basic common sense—that nicotine is bad for us.
The next time you’re “dying for a cigarette,” please remember that animals are dying too. They’re dying for you to quit smoking.
Heather Moore is a research specialist for the PETA Foundation.