Tobacco additives: Cigarette engineering and nicotine addiction

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Tobacco additives: Cigarette engineering and nicotine addiction, by Clive Bates (Action on Smoking and Health, London), Dr. Martin Jarvis (Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London) and Dr. Gregory Connolly (Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, Boston). July 14, 1999.

Summary of published paper:

This paper draws on tobacco industry documents to explore the public health ramifications of, and effect on human smoking behavior of the some 600+ potential additives used in cigarettes. Which cigarettes incorporate which additives from among this list is known only to the individual tobacco companies; the information is not public. The report finds that most of the additives are not necessary and few were used before 1970. The report seeks to raise concerns that there is need for increased regulatory scrutiny to tobacco additives. Authors found that

  • Additives are used to make cigarettes that provide high levels of "free" nicotine, which increases the addictive "kick" of the nicotine. Ammonium compounds can fulfil this role by raising the alkalinity of smoke.
  • Additives are used to make cigarettes more "attractive" and "palatable," and that this is a cause for concern.
  • Sweeteners and chocolate may help make cigarettes more palatable to children and first time users; Eugenol and menthol numb the throat so the smoker cannot feel the smoke's aggravating effects.
  • Additives such as cocoa may be used to dilate the airways allowing the smoke an easier and deeper passage into the lungs exposing the body to more nicotine and higher levels of tar.
  • Some additives are toxic or addictive in their own right or in combination, and when additives are burned, new products of combustion are formed and these may be toxic or pharmacologically active.
  • Additives are used to mask the smell and visibility of side-stream smoke, making it harder for people to protect themselves and undermining claims that smoking is anti-social without at the same time reducing the health risks of passive smoking.

The authors argue that a new regulatory framework is needed regarding cigarette additives, that that it should incorporate better disclosure, that more information about additives should be made public, that regulators should be free to challenge any additive, and the burden of proof should be placed on manufacturers to prove an additive is safe.