Companies have made cigarettes more addictive: study

San Francisco – The amount of nicotine in cigarettes rose by about 11 per cent from 1998 through 2005, potentially making cigarette smoking more addictive, according to a study by researchers at the Harvard School of public Heath.

The researchers confirmed the magnitude of increase in their analysis of data provided by cigarette makers and reported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in August. The state requires tobacco companies to disclose nicotine yields each year.

The Harvard study found that while levels of nicotine, the primary addictive ingredient in cigarettes, fluctuated from year to year they increased on averag4e by 1.6 per cent per year over the period studied. The researchers also said nicotine levels rose in cigarettes from all four major manufacturers and across all major market categories, such as menthol, full-flavour, light and ultra lights.

“If Cigarette makers don’t want adults to be addicted, and they don’t want kids to start, it’s not a good thing to increase the amount of nicotine,” said Gregory Connolly, lead author of the study and a professor of public health at Harvard. “They are actually enhancing the ability of the smoker to extract more nicotine.”

Connolly said Thursday he was surprised to find that cigarettes appeared to be designed to deliver more nicotine, both because of increased concentration of the substance in the tobacco leaves, and by modifying the design of cigarettes to increase the number of puffs taken by smokers.

“Hopefully, the study will be a wake-up call to persuade Republicans and Democrats alike to enact long-overdue legislation allowing the FDA to regulate cigarettes,” Senator Edward Kennedy (Dem.-Massachusetts) said in a statement yesterday. He called the Harvard study an “extraordinary public service.”

Philip Morris USA, the Richmond, Virginia based tobacco unit of Altria Group Inc., said in a statement Thursday that data it provided to Massachusetts public health officials how nicotine levels for its Marlboro brand were 1.86 milligrams per cigarette in 1997, the same as in 2006. The 2006 figures weren’t included in the Harvard study.

A spokesman for R.J/ Reynolds Tobacco, a unit of Reynolds American Inc., said the company is reviewing the research and declined to comment.

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