Nicotine 'is as addictive as cocaine and heroin'
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Wednesday, 9 February 2000
Nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine, and cigarettes should be regarded as a nicotine-delivery systems comparable to a needle and syringe, the Royal College of Physicians said yesterday.
A nicotine regulatory authority is needed to counter the marketing strategies of the tobacco companies and ensure nicotine is subject to the same controls as any other drug, the college said. All doctors should recognise nicotine addiction as a priority for treatment and the Government should ensure there is universal access to help to give up the smoking habit, with cheap or free nicotine substitutes.
Almost 40 years after the college identified smoking as the cause of lung cancer in a landmark report in 1962, it called for nicotine addiction to become a "major health priority in Britain". In a new report, Nicotine Addiction in Britain, it says recognition of the central role played by the drug is crucial to helping more smokers give up.
Professor Sir George Alberti, president of the college, says in the foreword: "Cigarettes are in reality extremely effective and closely controlled nicotine delivery devices ... Recognition of this central role of nicotine addiction has major implications for the way in which ... cigarettes should be regulated and controlled in society."
One-third of smokers light their first cigarette within 15 minutes of waking and an equal proportion say they would find it very difficult to go for a day without smoking. Although two-thirds of smokers say they want to give up and one-third try in any one year, only 2 per cent succeed. The report says smoking "is a serious form of drug addiction, which on the whole is second to no other".
Martin Jarvis, professor of health psychology at University College London, said: "What stands out is the grip it has on its users. It is probably harder to give up nicotine than other drugs of abuse."
The report highlights the imbalance between the "unparalleled freedom" enjoyed by the tobacco companies to market their products and the tight controls on nicotine replacements such as patches and gum, which are treated as medicinal drugs and subject to regulation by the Medicines Control Agency. It says a proper regulatory framework is needed that recognises smoking as a drug condition.
One requirement for regulation was over the promotion of low-tar cigarettes as a healthier alternative. Research shows that smokers compensate for the lower nicotine and tar and smoke more cigarettes or inhale more deeply to get the same experience.
Clive Bates, director of Ash, the anti-smoking pressure group, and a member of the college's tobacco advisory committee, said: "The royal college has sounded the death knell for low-tar cigarettes and the comforting but wrong idea that they are somehow less dangerous."
Mr Bates said tobacco companies were reluctant to take steps to make cigarettes safer,such as adding activated carbon filters to remove toxic compounds from smoke, altering the additives and investigating methods of heating rather than burning tobacco.
Responding to the report, the Health minister Yvette Cooper said the Government backed a ban on cigarette brands such as "light" or "mild" that suggested a less harmful cigarette. She said the Government was spending £100m over three years to help smokers who wanted to give up.
sourcehttp://www.independent.co.uk/life-style ... 24607.html
______________________________________________________Nicotine Addictionhttp://www.addictiontodrugs.org/nicotin ... n.php?maxi