Tobacco manufacturers are adding sugar and sweeteners in an effort to make cigarettes smoother - in what is being branded a cynical attempt to lure young smokers and turn them into addicts.
New research, published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, reveals that some cigarette firms are using additives such as plum juice, maple syrup and honey to make their products taste better.
But, according to scientists, the sweeteners increase the smokers' risk of cancer.
The study looked at sweet additives put into cigarettes by five big tobacco firms - British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, Gallaher, and Japan Tobacco International. The details come from the firms' websites.
The researchers say the firms do this because "the addition of sugars in tobacco can enhance tobacco use in at least two ways - neutralisation of the harsh taste of cigarette smoke and generation of acetaldehyde, which increases the addictive effect of nicotine... Moreover, the sweet taste and the agreeable smell of caramelised sugar flavours are appreciated in particular by starting adolescent smokers."
According to the report, the amount of sugar found naturally in tobacco varies. It depends on how the tobacco is cured, or dried. Boosting sugar levels, say the researchers, makes the smoke more poisonous.
Deborah Arnott, director of Action on Smoking and Health, said: "We have great concerns about the number of additives and ingredients added to cigarettes trying to make them more palatable." She added that the additives were a cynical attempt by the tobacco companies to replace the customers they kill each year.
Chris Proctor, head of Science and Regulation at British American Tobacco, confirmed that tobacco companies add sugar but denied this encourages young people to smoke. "The style of cigarettes sold in the UK are overwhelmingly Virginia-style. They typically do not have sugar added. Yet there seems to be no difference between these style of cigarettes and the American-blended cigarettes sold in most parts of Europe, which typically have added sugar, in terms of health risks, numbers of young people smoking and quitting rates."
HOW IT WORKS
Marlboro Red King Size cigarettes, from Philip Morris, one of the five firms in the study, contain sweeteners including cocoa, carob bean and liquorice gum.
The taste of cocoa and liquorice, critics claim, is used to make cigarettes more appealing to children. They also dilate the airways, allowing the smoke a deeper passage into the lungs. Sweet additives mask the smell of smoke.Reuse content