It is National Non-Smoking Week in Canada — a timely backdrop for a new Harvard study that every smoker might want to hear about. In essence, it’s how the cigarette companies are tricking you into not quitting — and the results have prompted Massachusetts’ Senator Edward Kennedy into reintroducing a bill that would allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate cigarettes just like it does medication.
The study proved that big tobacco is in the business of making their products increasingly more addictive in order to keep people smoking. The level of nicotine in cigarettes has been rising over the years — and it is not coincidental. Harvard researchers looked at data and noted that the growth in nicotine content ran across all brands and companies, and that it could not be considered random.
What’s happening is cigarettes are going through intentional design changes with the goal of making them that much harder to quit. Who knows why the companies would do this, but an educated guess would go something like this: it is a declining industry in North America; youngsters are picking up the habit less often and so big tobacco has to tighten its stranglehold on those who already smoke. Otherwise, their profit margins might go in up smoke.
Over the decades, big tobacco has gotten its back up over any scientific studies that tried to measure the effects of smoking. During that time, there’s been a quest to figure out how to best measure the smoke. One method involves using machines, which the government asked cigarette companies to use. The Massachusetts government asked the companies to submit a report each year about these tests. Its study, conducted from 1998 to 2004, showed that nicotine had increased an average of 10% during that time.
While big tobacco complained about the accuracy of that study, the Harvard group decided to take a more scientific approach. Their mathematical analysis showed that, as a matter of fact, the amount of nicotine in cigarette smoke was up an average of 11% from 1998 to 2005.
Now, the Justice Department is talking about how tobacco companies have “manipulated” the public when it comes to the addictive qualities of cigarettes — and federal judges talking of lies and deception with the victims being the “American public.”
What seems to be happening is that cigarette companies are perpetuating the addictive pull of nicotine. As of now, the industry doesn’t face regulations, but Senator Kennedy’s bill might change everything in Washington, where the democrats so famously are in control of both houses. Changes may be on the horizon.