Big Tobacco: Nicotine Addictive in 21st Century - Searcy Denney

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John Hopkins

Big Tobacco’s Newest Delivery System — Addiction Into the 21st Century

» Written by // November 26, 2013 // ,


When Big Tobacco was manufacturing cigarettes, what did they know and when did they know it? Their own documents are very revealing of an industry that dealt in high profits, fueled by deceit, distortion, misrepresentation and invention. The cigarette industry is one in which their own documents illustrate a collection of companies that, early in the 20th century, knew they had a very dangerous and very lucrative drug on their hands. They knew that if they could addict enough of the public, there were billions at stake and a concerted effort at doing just that transpired. That was in the 20th century.

Certainly in 2013, everyone understands the dangers of smoking and the highly addictive nature of nicotine; for how long have we known that? Depends on who you speak to and what you read. As late as 1994, the tobacco industry was of the opinion that, not only was nicotine not highly addictive, it was not addictive at all. In fact, watch the CEO’s of (7) of the largest tobacco companies perjure themselves in front of Congress:

Now the tobacco “biggies” want to start off the 21st century by diversifing out of the tobacco business and they want in on the new “E-cigarette” business. This is for good reason, too. They have killed off most of their addicts and fewer and fewer addicts are replacing them. The Big Tobacco plan has failed:

  • “We are searching explicitly for a socially acceptable addictive product. The essential constituent is most likely to be nicotine or a direct substitute for it.” British American Tobacco Co. memo, August, 1979.
  • “They represent tomorrow’s cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume for at least the next 25 years.” R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. executive to Vice-President for Marketing C.A. Tucker, September 30, 1974.
  • “Brands/companies which fail to attract their fair share of younger adult smokers face an uphill battle.” Memo from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. researcher Diane Burrows, February 29, 1984.

Although the tactics of marketing directly to teenagers has been stopped (mostly) here in the United States, that practice is rampant in places such as Indonesia even today. Cigarette ads line the streets of many countries; TV and magazines are filled with images designed to lure young people to take up smoking to be “cool” or some 21st century equivalent; and children regularly purchase cigarettes at 5 cents apiece (an old Big Tobacco approach from the early 20th century in the US).

So, how should we feel about Big Tobacco getting into the E-cigarette business? Can we trust them? Do we know enough about e-cigarettes and nicotine that we can regulate them? Here are a few things to remember about Big Tobacco and cigarettes; from their own mouths:

  • “I don’t know of any smoker who at some point hasn’t wished he didn’t smoke. If we could offer an acceptable alternative for providing nicotine, I am 100 percent sure we would have a gigantic brand.” Lorillard letter discussing new products, 1977.
  • “The cigarette should not be construed as a product but a package. The product is nicotine. Think of a puff of smoke as the vehicle for nicotine.” William L. Dunn Jr., Philip Morris researcher for the Council for Tobacco Research.
  • “Irrespective of the ethics involved, we should develop alternative designs (that do not invite obvious criticism) which will allow the smoker to obtain significant enhanced deliveries [of nicotine] should he so wish.”  British American Tobacco Co. memo, 1984.
  • “We are searching explicitly for a socially acceptable addictive product. The essential constituent is most likely to be nicotine or a direct substitute for it.” British American Tobacco Co. memo, August, 1979.
  • “The tobacco industry has long been aware of the addictive properties of nicotine, although it continues to this day its public denials. However, internally the cigarette manufacturers quite explicitly view the cigarette as a high technology nicotine delivery system.” David Kessler, MD, Commissioner of the FDA.

So, is Big Tobacco responsible enough to, once again, be given the keys to the gate of addiction? E-cigarettes may be perfect for them since it has never been about the “package” and E-cigarettes provide them with a near perfect delivery system for a drug (nicotine) that has been described as: “the single most addictive substance in common use…more addictive than heroin or cocaine…”

Nicotine and the manipulation of nicotine is something they know a lot about.

Here may be the problem. Nicotine and the manipulation of nicotine is something they know a lot about. We would be delivering a product to companies who have already made it clear that they have a desire, a profit driven zeal, to keep people hooked on nicotine. They have a history filled with manipulating the ingredients in tobacco to accomplish that end; while ignoring, burying and lying about the dangers of their manipulative methods. Finally, they have already made it clear that they want a delivery system for nicotine — with E-cigarettes they have it.

So, won’t an industry that we know we can not trust simply take E-cigarettes from a way to end the addiction to cigarettes and allow them to reinvent it as a socially acceptable method of addicting even more generations? Granted, the risks may not all be there, but addiction is addiction…isn’t it?


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