Smoking chocolate

A report released Monday (the executive summary is here) by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reminds us that the fight against tobacco and the companies that sell tobacco products goes on despite some successes. As if smoking wasn’t deadly enough, the report calls attention to changes to cigarettes that have made them even more addictive and more deadly than they once were. It also accuses the industry of luring younger smokers by making their products “smoother” and “less harsh” with chemical additives.

The fight against Big Tobacco goes on.

The report—Designed for Addiction: How the Tobacco Industry Has Made Cigarettes More Addictive, More Attractive to Kids, and Even More Deadly—highlights three ways that tobacco companies have accomplished this:

– First, the report documents how industry has “used design features and chemical additives in the manufacturing process in ways that increase the impact of nicotine.” This is done by adding ammonia or ammonia compounds to cigarettes, which has the effect of increasing the rate at which the drug is delivered to the brain. Companies have also added sugar to their ingredients. This increases the addictiveness of nicotine.

– Second, tobacco companies have found ways to make it more likely that new smokers will stick with it. According to the report, “manufacturers use chemical additives to alter the taste and smoothness of tobacco use in ways that make tobacco products more appealing to the young, novice smoker.” These additives, including licorice and chocolate flavors, reduce the harshness of the product, helping to lure a new smoker towards addiction.

– Third, further design changes in cigarettes, including exposure to higher levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamine and the development of ventilated filters that allow smokers to inhale smoke more deeply into their lungs, have contributed to an increased risk of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) in smokers today compared to smokers 50 years ago.

What should we do about this? The report calls on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the manufacture of cigarettes. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 granted the FDA the power to do this. This recommendation echoes the latest Surgeon General’s report on smoking. Both the Surgeon General’s report and the report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids call on the FDA to exercise this authority immediately.

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