Aug. 29 2006
Washington, DC — On the heels of U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler’s ruling this month that the tobacco companies have lied – and continue to lie – to the American people about the health risks of their products, the fact that their products are addictive and that they market to children, a new report finds that tobacco companies have secretly and significantly increased the levels of nicotine in cigarette smoke between 1998 and 2004.
These findings add to the growing evidence that as smoking rates continue to decline, and more smokers try to quit, tobacco companies have stopped at nothing to maintain addiction among smokers and to addict a new generation of replacement smokers. The fact that the tobacco companies have been able to secretly increase nicotine levels in tobacco smoke occurred only because no federal or state agency currently has regulatory authority over cigarettes or what tobacco companies put in cigarettes.
The report finds that nicotine levels in the three cigarette brands that are most popular among youth smokers—Marlboro, Newport and Camel—have increased significantly between 1998 and 2004. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, nicotine levels in R.J. Reynolds’ menthol Kool brand increased by 20 percent during the six-year time period. More than two-thirds of African American smokers use menthol brands, providing further evidence that tobacco companies are continuing to aggressively target minority communities.
This report reinforces the recent U.S. District Court opinion by Judge Kessler where she states: “Defendants continued to engage in conduct that is materially indistinguishable from their previous actions, activity that continues to this day… all Defendants continue to fraudulently deny that they manipulate the nicotine delivery of their cigarettes in order to create and sustain addiction…”
Unfortunately, Judge Kessler felt constrained by a controversial appeals court ruling in the remedies she could impose in this case. However, this new report further highlights the need for effective and aggressive action against tobacco use.
In light of both Judge Kessler's ruling and the new report findings, it is critical that Congress enact legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products that would require tobacco companies to disclose to the FDA and seek approval before making changes to their products that could make them more harmful or more addictive. State and local elected officials should also support proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke and the Bush Administration needs to take action by appealing the remedies portion of the ruling to seek stronger remedies that both address the consequences of the industry's wrongdoing and deter future wrongdoing.