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Public Health Lab Wants More Samples of Cigarettes for TestingSource: New Straits Times Publication date: 2004-09-13PENANG, Sun. - Although he has to check the tar and nicotine levels of thousands of cigarettes, Nasir Abu Hassan still wants more samples. This is because the Public Health Laboratory food technologist uses a RM1.3 million ASM 500 "smoking machine" that is currently underutilised as it can easily test 320 cigarettes per run daily. "We used to do sampling twice a week but now the tobacco unit is focusing more on education and awareness. So we are not getting the number of samples like we used to," he said. The testing process of tar and nicotine begins when the unit receives random samples from the tobacco unit inspectorate in the Public Health Department. The cigarettes are sub-sampled to separate them and get them conditioned to stabilise humidity. They are then prepared for the smoking process with five cigarettes from each brand "smoked" in one cycle. Lined up in the smoking machine, they will be lit up inside by an automatic device not unlike a car cigarette lighter and "puffed". The smoke goes down to "lung" bags located lower in the machine. After that the filters in the cigarette holders are removed, weighed for tar content and extracts will be taken to the gas chromatography machine for nicotine content tests. Are there many cigarettes which flout the maximum permissible level of 1.5 mg of nicotine and 20 mg of tar per stick? "In my experience, most of the cigarette brands in Malaysia have no problems, they usually have three quarters of the maximum levels, perhaps 15 mg of tar. Normally it is kretek which go beyond the levels," he said. He said kretek contained spices and cloves and took longer to burn over more puffs. "Thus the filter will collect more tar and nicotine. "Other cigarettes take about seven to nine puffs but one would need 14 to 15 puffs to finish a kretek," he said. Nasir said the laboratory followed the international ISO standards and procedures. "We at the laboratory are not in charge of enforcement but we get the samples and then submit our reports back to the tobacco unit," he said. Publication date: 2004-09-13

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