Cigarette Study: Increased Nicotine ‘Yield’ May Make Quitting Even Harder

kenji.aryan/flickr

kenji.aryan/flickr

Fifty years after the U.S. Surgeon General issued the first report on the health hazards of smoking, cigarettes are potentially more addictive than ever, according to a new study that examines so-called “nicotine yields” — essentially the amount of nicotine delivered via smoke.

The study, led by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and researchers at UMass Medical School, found that nicotine yield “increased sharply from 1998 to 2012 even as the total amount of nicotine in cigarettes has leveled off.”

Public health officials suggest that cigarette makers have cleverly changed the design of their product to increase the amount of nicotine smokers are taking in. (I asked whether the researchers had confronted the tobacco companies directly on these findings. Their response: No, tobacco companies were not directly questioned: “We use the data that they are required to provide to DPH annually,” a UMass Medical School spokesperson emailed.

Here’s more from the news release:

“This study indicates that cigarette manufacturers have recently altered the design of cigarettes. This can significantly increase the amount of nicotine a person receives while smoking,” said Thomas Land, PhD, director of the Office of Health Information Policy and Informatics for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and principal investigator for the study.

“Cigarettes have a more efficient nicotine delivery system than ever before,” Dr. Land said. “Because smokers have no way of knowing that the level of nicotine they are receiving has increased, they can become more addicted more easily without knowing why.”

While nicotine content remained relatively stable between 1998 and 2012, average nicotine yield increased by as much as 15 percent over time, ranging from the lowest level of 1.65 mg/cigarette in 1999 and the highest level of 1.89 mg/cigarette in 2011.

“If cigarettes deliver higher levels of nicotine, it might be more difficult for smokers to quit,” said Wenjun Li, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at UMass Medical School and senior author of the study, “Recent Increases in Efficiency in Cigarette Nicotine Delivery: Implications for Tobacco Control” posted online Jan. 13 in Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

“The 15 percent increase is large,” Dr. Li said. “Without knowing the higher nicotine yield, a heavy smoker trying to cut back on the number of cigarettes smoked each day may actually be getting the same amount of nicotine even though they are smoking fewer cigarettes. This makes the quit attempt much harder.”

The current analysis of data provided by four major cigarette manufacturers followed 2005 findings from the Harvard School of Public Health that manufacturers increased nicotine levels in their products by close to 11 percent between 1997 and 2005. The brand-by-brand testing results, which tobacco manufacturers have been required to submit to MDPH since 1997, includes total nicotine content in a cigarette, the total amount of nicotine that is “delivered” to a standard mechanical smoking machine, and various design characteristics such as cigarette length and degree of filter ventilation.

The current analysis shows that even though nicotine content in cigarettes has remained fairly level since 2005, nicotine yield continued to increase, corresponding to a sharp increase in the yield-to-content ratio. This contradicts the industry’s assertions that variations in nicotine content and nicotine yield are due to “normal” agricultural variations in tobacco crops, researchers said.

“Unless there have been changes in the design of a cigarette, the ratio of nicotine yield to nicotine content should be unaffected by year-to-year agricultural changes,” explained Land.

Researchers consider these design tactics by the cigarette manufacturers especially concerning in light of major tobacco companies’ recent purchase of e-cigarette companies. E-cigarettes are unregulated and their nicotine content is untested and vulnerable to manipulation.

“Nicotine yield and yield-to-content ratio are factors controlled by the manufacturers,” said Li. “Therefore it is important for the government to keep its eye on the design features of cigarettes, to make sure that cigarettes and other products that contain nicotine are not being made more addictive. This paper highlights the importance of improving the nation’s current regulations on tobacco products’ surveillance.”

“We are putting this information in the public arena to raise awareness and hold the tobacco industry accountable,” concluded Land.

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  • John201401

    PS: When I quit analogs cold turkey it was brutal hell. For about a week I had night sweats and was a miserable human being. I had shakes at times and felt ill 24/7. After trying to quit analogs for years, it was a really bad bronchitis infection where I literally could not breath that finally helped quitting. I was getting chronic bronchitis infections, something I have not had for YEARS of only using ecigs. Ecigs saved my life. I mix my own because its cheaper and I know whats in the mix if I do it myself. Now when I run out of ejuice and have to wait for the nic-juice to come in (its frequently back-ordered) and don’t get to vape nicotine I DO NOT have cravings, nor do I have those terrible effects that I had the first week of not smoking analogs. Don’t believe me? If you are a smoker, quit smoking cigs and when you fail and are about to go back switch to ecigs instead. In fact, I think my system has built up a resistance to Nicotine addiction because of vaping straight Nicotine. I can’t stress this enough, I NO LONGER get Nicotine cravings and only vape Nicotine for the pleasure of Nicotine. I frequently take breaks from vaping Nicotine without any adverse effects, unlike with analogs. Ask yourself why they put formaldehyde in analog cigs? As a former medic I can tell you its because crack-heads freebase formaldehyde to get wicked high and its far more addictive than traditionally abused drugs like cocaine. Big pharma makes billions in smoking secession products and are concerned ecigs will cut into profits. Why don’t you do some research into who is lobbying against ecigs? Surprise, surprise, even the big cigarette companies have STOPPED lobbying against them and now its just big pharma leading the fight. Big Pharma doesn’t care about your health, only your money. Follow the money, find the truth.

  • John201401

    This is total BS. Most of the addiction from Analog cigs comes from the 300+ chemicals they put in regular cigs to make them more addictive. I smoked for 20+ years, at one point up to two packs a day and have been smoke free for years due to ecigs. Every time I try to go back to analogs, just to try them again I feel sick and throw out the cig. I no longer cough up crap and my lungs are finally starting to heal. I can put down my ecig for days, even after vaping all day 36mg ejuice. I no longer get cravings and just vape to enjoy vaping. I know several people who have dropped down to 0 mg ejuice from full blown 1+ packs a day. I often mix up 0 mg juice too, but enjoy a little nicotine now and again. I am fully convinced its the formaldehyde and other highly addictive carcinogenesis they put in analogs that cause most of the addiction. Pure Nicotine is no where near as addictive as formaldehyde laced analog cigs. Furthermore, many studies show that w/ vaping you get FAR LESS Nicotine transfer into the system. I am sick of these jerks trying to nanny-state our lives while the criminals on wallstreet get away with robbery and murder. Piss off and stop telling me what I can and can’t do to my body. Why do they not reference how Nicotine has been PROVEN by Yale University Medical to fight Alzheimer’s? Why don’t they talk about all the labels on these legal pharma drugs that say “May cause death, thoughts of suicide, homicide, etc”? Big pharma has been killing us slowly for years with these drugs that don’t cure anything, because long term treatment is where the real money is, not cures. Go away with this nonsense and stop promoting the NWO’s agenda.