Cigarette Nicotine Levels Rise 10% over 6 Years

Cigarette Nicotine Levels Rise 10% over 6 Years

Even as measures to discourage smoking grew more stringent in recent years, the nicotine content of cigarettes rose, according to a new report, making it tougher for smokers to quit.


Nicotine levels in U.S. cigarettes have increased about 10 percent since 1998, making it easier for people to get addicted and harder for smokers to quit, according to a Massachusetts Department of Health report released Tuesday.

Of the 179 cigarette brands tested in 2004 for the report, 93 percent were in the highest range for nicotine, compared to 84 percent of 116 brands tested in 1998, the Associated Press reported.

The three brands most popular with young people -- Camel, Marlboro and Newport -- contained much more nicotine in 2004 than they did years ago. The study also found that nicotine levels in Kool, a popular menthol cigarette, increased 20 percent from 1998 to 2004.

There's not much point in turning to "light" cigarette brands to reduce nicotine intake, the report said. It found no significant difference in total nicotine content between "full flavor," "medium," "light" or "ultra-light" cigarettes, the AP reported.

In 2004, Newport filtered cigarettes had the highest level of inhalable nicotine, nearly 70 percent above the average. Newport, the study said, had eclipsed Camel as having the highest nicotine levels. The brands with the lowest content were Doral Ultra-Light King soft pack and Winston Ultra-Light King soft pack.

After being inhaled, nicotine races to the brain in seconds, releasing a flood of chemicals associated with pleasure and motivation. Increasing the amount of nicotine, doctors said, presents a very real danger to smokers.

"We in public health have tried to spend a lot of time figuring out why people don't stop smoking," said Lois Keithly, director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program. "It is more difficult to quit when there is a higher amount of nicotine in the cigarette."

Representatives of the three major tobacco makers in the United States -- Lorillard Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. -- declined to comment and would not answer questions about the nicotine content of their products.

Tobacco control specialists not involved with the Massachusetts report described it as the first major study tracking nicotine in cigarettes in seven years. Those specialists said they believe that the findings are reflective of trends nationwide.

Veterans of the decades-long fight against the tobacco industry said the rising nicotine levels show that companies will adopt strategies to get smokers addicted - and to keep them hooked. "I'm always shocked at the new things the industry does," said Richard Daynard, chairman of the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University. "This is sort of sleazy in a new and different way.
nicotine levels on average had remained stable since 1980, after falling in the preceding decade. The last of those studies was released in September 1999, commission spokeswoman Claudia B. Farrell said .

After being inhaled, nicotine races to the brain in seconds, releasing a flood of chemicals associated with pleasure and motivation. Increasing the amount of nicotine, doctors said, presents a very real danger to smokers.

It could make it harder, too, to treat smokers who want to quit, Rigotti and the state's Keithly said. Current formulations of nicotine patches and gums might be too weak to counteract the craving created by high-powered cigarettes.

Nicotine is, of course, the addictive content of cigarettes. In lower concentrations, the substance is a stimulant and is one of the main factors responsible for the dependence-forming properties of tobacco smoking.

So, the big question. Are cigarette manufacturers adding nicotine to their products to add to the addictiveness of them, thus making larger and more long term profits, or are the plants themselves naturally producing more nicotine due to the climate changes experience in the past 10 years?

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