Smoking is a factor, and an important factor, in the production of carcinoma in the lung," wrote Richard Doll and Bradford Hill some fifty years ago. It was this first study which would initiate all others. It was this first study which would be expanded and eventually establish smoking as a major health risk linking it to problems including everything from heart disease to bronchitis, from indigestion to impotence. And it was this first study which would spark the controversies still surrounding smoking, smokers and the tobacco industry.
For over fifty years the tobacco industry has repeatedly demonstrated a callous and irresponsible demeanor. Throughout the years the industry has lied to the public about the harmful effects of cigarettes and they have consciously marketed their product toward youth, minorities, and the poor. The following pages will look closely at issues surrounding cigarettes, smoking, and the multi-billion dollar industry which supports and promotes mass consumption of tobacco throughout the world.
Approximately one quarter of the adult population smokes. Six thousand young people begin to smoke every day in the United States. Half of these smokers will light-up at least once or more a day, initiating the habit of smoking. In the year 2000, studies indicated that in some areas the amount of adolescent smokers exceeded the amount of adult smokers. (Pediatrics, Pg 1) Though there have been numerous studies and a strong recent push to make people aware of the dangers of smoking, new people become smokers every day and the number of smokers in the nation remains steady.
There is no question about it, tobacco kills indiscriminately. Studies indicate that every day 1,200 people die of tobacco related illness'. One in five Americans who die each year die as a result of tobacco use. And lastly, the average person who smokes looses fifteen years from their life due to their habit. (SWAT, Pg 3) Smoking is a tremendously dangerous activity which is still advocated, distributed, and advertised by the tobacco industry.
The Effects of Nicotine:
Nicotine is a naturally occurring colorless liquid found in tobacco. This particular component in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes is the primary addictive element which acts on the brain when a person uses tobacco. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 1) Nicotine has been characterized as being ninety nine percent addictive. (SWAT, Pg 2)
Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and use. This behavior often takes place regardless of the negative health consequences which might be derived from said behavior. Certainly the availability of the drug has an effect on how quickly a person becomes addicted. Along with this, the fact that there are few legal or social consequences for an addiction to nicotine make it all the more attractive. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 2)
Most people satiate their addiction to nicotine through smoking. The average cigarette contains approximately 10 milligrams of nicotine. By inhaling smoke, most smokers are able to take in 1 to 2 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette. The nicotine is absorbed into the body through the skin and mucosal lining of the mouth and nose or by inhalation in the lungs. By this means, nicotine quickly works its way into the bloodstream and the brain, generally reaching peak levels within ten seconds of the inhalation. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 1-2)
Nicotine can act as both a stimulant and a sedative. Immediately after exposure to nicotine, there is a "kick" caused in part by the drug's stimulation of adrenal glands and resulting discharge of epinephrine (adrenaline). The rush of adrenaline stimulates the body and causes a sudden release of glucose as well as an increase in blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. Nicotine also suppresses insulin output from the pancreas, which means that smokers are always slightly hyperglycemic. In addition, nicotine indirectly causes a release of dopamine in the brain regions that control pleasure and motivation. The reaction is similar to that seen with other drugs of abuse - such as cocaine and heroine - and it is thought to underlie the pleasurable sensations experienced by many smokers. In contrast, nicotine can also exert a sedative effect, depending on the level of the smoker's nervous system arousal and the dose of nicotine taken.
Nicotine Addiction, Pg 4)
The cigarette is an extremely efficient drug delivery system which has been engineered over the years to enter the brain as quickly as possible. The average smoker will take approximately ten puffs from their cigarette before it is done. As a result, the person who smokes one and a half packs a day will introduce nicotine into the brain three hundred times in a single day. The more puffs in a day, the more addictive the nicotine becomes. If a person wishes to cut back, they may experience physical and psychological withdraw from nicotine, making it a very hard drug to escape from. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 1-3)
Many who wish to quit smoking have a very difficult time breaking the addiction. Nearly 35 million people attempt to quite smoking every year. Statistics indicate that less than seven percent will achieve more than one year of abstinence from the drug. The vast majority of those attempting to quit smoking relapse within a few days. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 2)
As the years have gone by, more and more evidence has mounted indicating that nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs around. Though the natural properties of nicotine are addictive, evidence has been presented showing that tobacco companies have done a fair share of tinkering with the components of nicotine and cigarettes to make them even more addictive.
For a little less than the past year the Research Department has been working on a succession of projects which collectively may be called the nicotine enrichment project. (Lorillard Tobacco Company, 1977)
In 1995, ABC News reported that tobacco companies manipulate the amount of nicotine - the primary addictive ingredient - in their cigarettes. They do this by removing nicotine from the tobacco and then restoring it, thus making it more potent. Unfortunately, ABC used the term "spike" in their report, leading many to believe that tobacco companies add more nicotine to their product. Though the vast majority of the report was valid, that single word gave the tobacco companies the opening that they required. The executives at Phillip Morris were not amused by the report at all, so they took that opening and sued ABC for ten billion dollars. (Glass, Pg 3)
Eventually a settlement was reached and ABC was required to make apologies to the tobacco companies during prime time broadcasting. The whole incident revolving around the misuse of the word was unfortunate, because what ABC reported was a valid and important fact: Tobacco companies routinely manipulate the level of addictiveness within their product. Indeed, a Federal Drug Agency report indicated that, "Internal tobacco industry documents demonstrate the industry's longstanding knowledge of - and extensive research on - the significant addictive and pharmacological effects of nicotine." (Glass, Pg 3)
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that nicotine is an extremely addictive drug which has been tinkered with to be even more addictive. The tobacco companies have always known what they were selling. Indeed, the following line was printed on an internal memo at Addison Yeaman, Brown and Williamson in 1963: "We are in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug." (SWAT, Pg 2)
Health Problems Related to Smoking:
The primary issues related to health and nicotine addiction revolve around how one obtains the nicotine. The vast majority of those who are addicted to the drug attain their "fix" through tobacco use, which is ultimately responsible for one third of all cancers. Cigarette smoking alone has been linked to ninety percent of all lung cancer cases. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 5)
Smoking has also been linked to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. It is also directly related to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, kidney, cervix, pancreas, and bladder. A strong relationship has also been reported to exist between smoking and heart disease, strokes, heart attacks, vascular diseases, and aneurysms. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 6)
Death rates from cancer are nearly twice as high among smokers as they are for non-smokers. Heavy smokers have a death-rate that is nearly four times greater than those of non-smokers. Estimates have also been made correlating nearly one-fifth of all heart disease deaths to smoking. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 6)
Clearly smoking has detrimental effects on the people who choose to do so, but what about those who do not?
Second hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is a major contributor to lung disease and cancer deaths each year. It is estimated that nearly three thousand people die of lung cancer every year as a result of second hand smoke. ETS is also responsible for up to forty-thousand deaths annually due to cardiovascular disease. Exposure to ETS also increases the risk of asthma and sudden infant death syndrome among children. (Nicotine Addiction, Pg 6)