10 September 2006

Addiction feeds the industry

It is not surprising that the nicotine content in the most popular cigarettes among young people and minorities has increased sharply - 10 percent - from 1998 to 2004. The more nicotine cigarettes contain, the greater the potential that the product will be more addictive and the addiction will be quicker. An addiction to nicotine increases the activity of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that elicits pleasurable sensations, which when removed, may leave a smoker agitated and depressed. Persons who start smoking as adolescents develop a greater density of nicotine receptor sites in the brain; they become heavier smokers in adulthood, which feeds the industry. The industry knows, that if it can get a smoker addicted, then it has a user pretty much for life.

Adolescents are the perfect group for the industry's intentions because around age 11 the adolescent brain undergoes major reorganization associated with social behavior and impulse control. Adolescents vastly underestimate the addictive nature of nicotine. Most believe they will quit in five years. The decision to quit smoking is a brave and daring one to make. Nevertheless, 70 percent of smokers worldwide do want to drop the habit, but nearly 75 percent are still smoking five or six years later.It is not reasonable to allow the tobacco industry to regulate itself. It is time for health professionals, researchers and government officials to more aggressively regulate the industry.

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