Letter: Addicted to nicotine

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The Independent Online
HUGH THOMSON talks about smokers trying to shift the blame on to those who supplied what they wanted (letter, 18 February). But the tobacco industry cannot escape responsibility for its products and load it all on to smokers.

People who smoke want nicotine, but they get cigarettes. The great majority of smoking-related disease is caused by tar, not nicotine. The cigarette is an extraordinarily dirty delivery system for the drug nicotine.

Tobacco companies have a duty to their consumers to supply a product fit for its purpose. That purpose is to satisfy nicotine addiction, not to cause smoking-related disease. Up to now, the tobacco industry has manifestly failed to reduce the hazards of cigarettes.

Because of the constraint on choice imposed by addiction, it is hard to argue that smoking is an activity freely undertaken, and that smokers thereby assume responsibility for the consequences. Leaving addiction aside, the manufacturer is still responsible for the product. When mineral water was found to be contaminated with trace amounts of benzene, far lower than those routinely delivered by cigarettes, it was withdrawn from sale until the problem was rectified.

MARTIN JARVIS

Imperial Cancer Research Fund

London WC2

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