06 September 2006

There is no "light" nicotine addiction

Why do smokers keep puffing away at a habit they know can kill them and those around them?

Here is a clue: Studies consistently show that about three-quarters of smokers want to quit. Many have tried repeatedly. But the habit wins. That is because it's not a habit, it is an addiction.

After decades of denial, even tobacco industry executives mostly admit that the nicotine in cigarettes is addictive. Despite the abundance of cigarettes now labeled "light" and "ultra-light", the amount of nicotine being inhaled by smokers has increased significantly: an average of 10 percent, some higher than 20 percent, from 1998 to 2004. The nicotine levels in some brands went up even more, especially those favored by young smokers.

There were no significant differences in nicotine level among "full flavor", "mild", "light", or "ultra light" cigarettes. Smokers who switch to "lower yield" cigarettes don't lower their nicotine consumption. Tobacco companies have designed their cigarettes to precisely control nicotine delivery levels and provide doses of nicotine sufficient to create and sustain addiction.

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