Professor's smoking claim attacked

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The Independent Online
A British academic frequently cited by the tobacco industry for the claim that nicotine is not addictive has been harshly criticised in a US report calling for the prosecution of tobacco companies for allegedly deceiving the public about the dange rs of smoking.

Controversial studies by David Warburton, Professor of Psychology at Reading University, are the main scientific underpinning for the tobacco industry's claim that the nicotine in tobacco does not make cigarettes a drug or smoking them an addiction.

Professor Warburton's views are rejected by leading US and British authorities on smoking. He has been a controversial figure among experts on smoking and addiction for many years and is now centre-stage in an increasingly acrimonious battle over smokingbecause of the reliance of British and US tobacco companies on his findings.

Professor Warburton was criticised in a report by US Congressman Martin Meehan and accused of being "extensively funded by the tobacco industry". The report, a copy of which has been obtained by the Independent, has been passed to the US Attorney Generaland the Justice Department in the belief that the tobacco industry is criminally liable for millions of smoking-related deaths over the past 40 years.

Professor Warburton denied "giving comfort" to the tobacco industry. "If I had to take sides I'm on the side of the smoker trying to give up," he said. He maintains that the term "addiction" is confusing and that scientists cannot agree on a definition. Mr Meehan's report focuses on statements made to Congress by tobacco executives last year when, it is claimed, they perjured themselves by claiming that nicotine is non-addictive.

Professor Warburton, he wrote, "is frequently cited by tobacco companies as the primary - and often, the only - support for the claim that nicotine is non addictive."

During the hearings William Campbell, head of the tobacco company Philip Morris, said that "cigarette smoking is non addictive" and that "the presence of nicotine ... does not make cigarettes a drug or smoking an addiction."

Because of this and other statements, Mr Meehan has requested a formal federal grand jury investigation to see whether tobacco companies should face criminal conspiracy charges for fraud and deception.

Professor Warburton acknowledges that his research projects had been funded in part by tobacco companies over the years but described the report as "very disturbing" saying that he was being made to look guilty by association . "I'm trying to help peoplegive up [smoking],'' he said.

America's powerful Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated categorically that nicotine is addictive. Mr Meehan says that "the only critics of the concept that nicotine is addictive are those with direct financial ties to tobacco companies".

Martin Jarvis, principal scientist at the Institute of Psychiatry, says in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychopharmacology: "The notion that nicotine is habituating but non addictive can also be consigned to the archives of history."