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Jan-19-2007 08:49printcomments

Researchers Say Tobacco Companies Have Increased Addictive Nicotine in Cigarettes by 11 Percent

Approximately 900,000 persons become addicted to smoking each year.

kids smoking
Photo: Peer Education Project

(BOSTON) - A reanalysis of nicotine yield from major brand name cigarettes sold in Massachusetts from 1997 to 2005 has confirmed that manufacturers have steadily increased the levels of this agent in cigarettes.

This independent analysis, based on data submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) by the manufacturers, found that increases in smoke nicotine yield per cigarette averaged 1.6 percent each year, or about 11 percent over a seven-year period (1998-2005).

Nicotine is the primary addictive agent in cigarettes.

In addition to confirming the magnitude of the increase, first reported in August, 2006 by MDPH, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) extended the analysis to:

1) ascertain how manufacturers accomplished the increase -- not only by intensifying the concentration of nicotine in the tobacco but also by modifying several design features of cigarettes to increase the number of puffs per cigarette. The end result is a product that is potentially more addictive.

2) examine all market categories -- finding that smoke nicotine yields were increased in the cigarettes of each of the four major manufacturers and across all the major cigarette market categories (e.g. mentholated, non-mentholated, full-flavor, light, ultralight).

The analysis was performed by a research team from the Tobacco Control Research Program at HSPH led by program director Gregory Connolly, professor of the practice of public health, and Howard Koh, associate dean for public health practice at HSPH and a former commissioner of public health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1997-2003).

The other co-investigators were HSPH researchers Hillel R. Alpert and Geoffrey Ferris Wayne.

"Cigarettes are finely-tuned drug delivery devices, designed to perpetuate a tobacco pandemic," said former Commissioner Koh. "Yet precise information about these products remains shrouded in secrecy, hidden from the public. Policy actions today requiring the tobacco industry to disclose critical information about nicotine and product design could protect the next generation from the tragedy of addiction."

Said Connolly: "Our findings call into serious question whether the tobacco industry has changed at all in its pursuit of addicting smokers since signing the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 with the State Attorneys General.

Our analysis shows that the companies have been subtly increasing the drug nicotine year by year in their cigarettes, without any warning to consumers, since the settlement. Scrutiny by the Attorneys General is imperative.

Proposed federal legislation has been filed by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Ma.) that would address this abuse and bring the tobacco industry under the rules that regulate other manufacturers of drugs."

Beginning in 1997, Massachusetts regulations have required an annual report to be filed with the MDPH by all manufacturers of cigarettes sold in Massachusetts.

The reported data include machine-based measures of nicotine yield as well as measures of cigarette design related to nicotine delivery.

The Tobacco Research Program at HSPH obtained from the MDPH a complete set of brand-specific data from 1997 to 2005 and analyzed trends in smoke nicotine yield.

The discovery of an 11 percent increase in nicotine content, said Connolly, confirms recent statements by the US District Court for the District of Columbia that manufacturers have the ability to manipulate addictive additives, and, he said, "it underscores the need for continued surveillance of nicotine delivery in products created by an unregulated industry."

In an opinion in US vs. Philip Morris USA et. al. Judge Gladys Kessler wrote that tobacco companies "can and do control the level of nicotine delivered in order to create and sustain addiction" and further, that the "goal to ensure that their products deliver sufficient nicotine to create and sustain addiction influences their selection and combination of design parameters."

Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 438,000 premature deaths (or about 1 of every 5 deaths) annually in the U.S., and approximately 900,000 persons become addicted to smoking each year.

In conclusion, according to the HSPH researchers, the extended analysis of MDPH data has demonstrated its potential to reveal undisclosed hazards to human health.

They suggest that MDPH amend its unique reporting requirements to include more information about cigarette and smokeless tobacco product design features that affect nicotine delivery - as well as testing of a sample of brands for the actual delivery of nicotine to the body.

Work on the report was supported by funds from The American Legacy Foundation and the National Cancer Institute.

The full report "Trends in Smoke Nicotine Yield and Relationship to Design Characteristics Among Popular U.S. Cigarette Brands" is available here:

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Deductor April 18, 2007 1:29 pm (Pacific time)

Why does flaxseed oil cause an increase risks of cancer? What then is the different between the flaxseed oil and the flaxseed? WBR LeoP

Henry Ruark January 20, 2007 10:11 pm (Pacific time)

rjc: Reluctantly, but for justice will simply add my wife of 60 years was heavily affected by casual smoke encountered in a newspaper office for some years, despite her determined non-smoking. It definitely shortened her life-span by some years, per medical records compiled. Does that, somehow, slightly impact your first two sentences ?? I do believe it should...

Henry Ruark January 20, 2007 9:08 am (Pacific time)

rjc: Don't forget heavy-dollars involved for media-ads. That drives corporate $$$ for "campaign contributions" similar to liquor interests, in Hawaii-trips. Disclosure: Quit in early youth at 3-pk. stage; one son now facing possible lung cancer 'cause he didn't quit. Would pull trigger to end corporate assassinations if I could... ongoing addictions otherwise often ended...

rjerryc January 20, 2007 7:50 am (Pacific time)

Good for the tobacco industry! I applaud everything they do to get more people hooked. Several years back, the whole country sold out to tobacco interests when the issue arose that would make tobacco illegal. Tobacco said, "Hey! We'll give every state huge amounts of money if tobacco remains legal." Every state jumped at the offer of money. This is America after all. And in America, if you have the cash, you get whatever you want because of the greed of the others. And suing tobacco companies for cancer deaths should not be allowed - after all, there is not one person who takes up smoking (or continues smoking) that does not know the risks. If you are so stupid as to start or continue, you should know that you will likely die because of it. Just cleans out the gene pool. Gets rid of the stupid people. Heck, most smokers are so stupid they don't know their cars have ash trays - why else would you see all those ashes and butts going out the windows. Isn't there something inherently wrong with people who will stick their lips on something referred to as a "butt" anyway? Well, except for those climbing the corporate ladder but that's a different issue.

U.S. Tobacco Industry January 19, 2007 6:06 pm (Pacific time)

Picky!.,Picky!.,Picky!.,our product is designed for independent thinkers who are old enough to make up their own minds without cluttering them with medical details! Our next new brand is "Eagle Death" for real peaople!.,unfiltered too!

anon. January 19, 2007 4:34 pm (Pacific time)

What does the Massachusetts Board of Health know? Are they more qualified than our governmtnt agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol,Firearms and Tobacco?.,who say as long as it's licensing fees are payed these items are fine.,and they wouldn't lie. They would never lower the high standards of safety required to market these fine products and I am taken aback this news service would cast aspersions and doubts over quality control checks and balances of this and other govt. bureaus. They bring in huge tax dollars to the Treasury and some of it is used to study cancer and emergency facilities for gunshot wound victims., and to open treatment centers for those who abuse the grog.What more could you ask for?

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