Medical leaders in Britain and the US called for new regulations to cut the nicotine in cigarettes. They said tobacco industry officials had secretly admitted they were purveyors of nicotine and that cigarettes were merely the delivery mechanism for this addictive drug.
At simultaneous press briefings in London and Minnesota, the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association urged their governments to act to make cigarettes less addictive. They said tobacco manufacturers should be forced to reduce the nicotine to zero or negligible levels over the next five to ten years.
The BMA said it was the first time doctors had targeted the product - the cigarette - rather than peripheral issues such as price or advertising. Action to cut nicotine "could prevent a generation of adolescents from becoming hooked".
A report by the American Medical Association, published in the journal Tobacco Control, says cutting nicotine would be technically feasible and effective. Dr Ron Davis, the editor, said: "If our two governments heed the advice to take action to reduce the addictiveness of tobacco products, the impact would be felt worldwide. Millions of lives could be saved."
A nicotine-free cigarette called Next was introduced by Philip Morris some years ago but it failed because it had to compete against well known, nicotine-rich brands such as Marlboro, Dr Davis said.
Most smokers smoked for the nicotine but if that source of the drug was removed they would be more likely to give up smoking and find another source. The aim was to eliminate nicotine-laden cigarettes and offer people who wanted nicotine a purer, cleaner supply of the drug in the form of a patch, gum or spray. "If you give people an alternative source there will not be a big black-market demand for the drug."
Clive Bates, the director of Ash, the anti-smoking pressure group, said it was the tar in cigarettes that was damaging to health rather than the nicotine. "Smoking tobacco is like using a dirty syringe to deliver the drug."
Regulations for nicotine substitutes such as gums and patches were tighter than those governing cigarettes, he said.Reuse content