It’s not just peer influence, stress or modern lifestyle that induces smokers to smoke some more. According to a recent report, over the recent decades, tobacco companies are making sure people stay addicted to the cigarettes, by making them more attractive and deadly.
The report issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids details how tobacco companies purposely design cigarettes to make tobacco smoke smoother, less harsh and more appealing to new users, especially kids, and to create and sustain addiction to nicotine. This has increased smokers’ risk of developing lung cancer.
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“For decades, the tobacco industry had complete control over how cigarettes were made, and they responded by making a deadly and addictive product even worse,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“Now that it has the authority to regulate tobacco products, the FDA must require changes in these products to reduce the death and disease they cause. Decisions about how tobacco products are made and what is in them must now be based on protecting public health, not tobacco industry profits.”
The report highlights nine key ways in which tobacco companies have made cigarettes more addictive, more attractive to kids and more deadly:
1. Increased Nicotine: Tobacco companies precisely control the delivery and amount of nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
2. Ammonia: Added ammonia compounds produce higher levels of “freebase” nicotine and increase the speed with which nicotine hits the brain.
3. Sugars and Acetaldehyde: Added sugars make tobacco smoke easier to inhale and, when burned in cigarettes, form acetaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical that enhances nicotine’s addictive effects.
Tobacco companies know that 90 percent of adult smokers start at or before age 18 and that smoking is unpleasant for new smokers, so they use chemical additives to make tobacco smoke smoother, less harsh and more appealing to the young, novice smoker. These additives include:
4. Levulinic Acid: Added organic acid salts, like levulinic acid, reduce the harshness of nicotine and make the smoke smoother and less irritating.
5. Flavorings: Added flavors like licorice and chocolate mask the harshness of the smoke and make tobacco products more appealing to young people (the 2009 tobacco regulation law prohibited cigarettes with “characterizing flavors” other than menthol, but did not prohibit the use of flavorings at levels not considered to be characterizing).
6. Bronchodilators: These added chemicals expand the lungs’ airways, making it easier for tobacco smoke to pass into the lungs.
7. Menthol: Menthol cools and numbs the throat to reduce irritation and make the smoke feel smoother.
The new Surgeon General’s report concluded that smokers’ increased risk of lung cancer was most likely the result of two design changes in cigarettes:
8.Tobacco-Specific Nitrosamines: Levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines, a potent carcinogen, have increased substantially in American cigarettes in recent decades and are much higher than in cigarettes from Australia and Canada. Factors affecting levels of nitrosamines include the tobacco blends and curing process used.
9. Ventilated Filters: Ventilation holes in cigarette filters cause smokers to inhale more vigorously, drawing carcinogens deeper into the lungs. (Cigarettes with ventilated filters were introduced by tobacco companies because they produced lower levels of tar and nicotine in machine tests and were marketed as less hazardous. However, the evidence now shows that these cigarettes did not reduce health risks and likely increased smokers’ risk of lung cancer.)