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Ghosh, Arunava; Nethery, Rachel C.; Herring, Amy H.; & Tarran, Robert (2017). Flavored Little Cigar Smoke Induces Cytotoxicity and Apoptosis in Airway Epithelia. Cell Death Discovery, 3, 17019. PMCID: PMC5402522


Addition of flavors reduces the harsh taste of tobacco, facilitating the initiation and maintenance of addiction among youths. Flavored cigarettes (except menthol) are now banned. However, the legislation on little cigars remains unclear and flavored little cigars are currently available for purchase. Since inhaled tobacco smoke directly exerts toxic effects on the lungs, we tested whether non-flavored and flavored little cigar smoke exposure had the potential for harm in cultured pulmonary epithelia. We cultured Calu-3 lung epithelia on both 96-well plates and at the air–liquid interface and exposed them to smoke from non-flavored Swisher Sweets and flavored (sweet cherry, grape, menthol, peach and strawberry) Swisher Sweets little cigars. Irrespective of flavor, acute little cigar smoke exposure (10×35 ml puffs) significantly increased cell death and decreased the percentage of live cells. Chronic exposure (10×35 ml puffs per day for 4 days) of smoke to Calu-3 cultures significantly increased lactate dehydrogenase release, further indicating toxicity. To determine whether this exposure was associated with increased cell death/apoptosis, a protein array was used. Chronic exposure to smoke from all types of little cigars induced the activation of the two major apoptosis pathways, namely the intrinsic (mitochondrial-mediated) and the extrinsic (death receptor-mediated) pathways. Both flavored and non-flavored little cigar smoke caused similar levels of toxicity and activation of apoptosis, suggesting that flavored and non-flavored little cigars are equally harmful. Hence, the manufacture, advertisement, sale and use of both non-flavored and flavored little cigars should be strictly controlled.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Cell Death Discovery


Ghosh, Arunava
Nethery, Rachel C.
Herring, Amy H.
Tarran, Robert