Addictive Powers of Tobacco Examined
LONDON (AP) - Tobacco smoke can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine, according to a report released Tuesday by a doctors' group, which called for the government to finance smokers' efforts to quit.
The report by the tobacco advisory group of the Royal College of Physicians called for an aggressive advertising campaign and other government-funded programs to help people give up cigarettes. It said cigarettes should be regulated just as other drugs, by an independent committee with the power to restrict the number of additives and amount of nicotine in them.
One in five deaths in Britain is caused by smoking, the report said, citing previous studies.
Britain's National Health Service also should foot the bill for nicotine replacement therapies such as chewing gum and patches for smokers who want to quit, and manufacturers should be barred from using the words ``light'' or ``mild'' on low-tar cigarettes, the report said.
``Cigarette smoking should be understood as a manifestation of nicotine addiction,'' the report said. ``The extent to which smokers are addicted to nicotine is comparable with addiction to `hard' drugs such as heroin or cocaine.''
The report said smoking should be viewed as a drug dependence ``second to no other.'' The document called for the establishment of an independent committee of experts to examine the options for nicotine regulation and report their findings to the government.
The Labor Party government already has begun a major anti-smoking initiative. It aims to reduce the percentage of Britons who smoke from 28 percent in 1996 to 26 percent by 2005 and 24 percent by 2010.
John Carlisle, the spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, criticized the report, characterizing the connection between tobacco and hard drugs as ``misplaced.''
``Some 12 million people have given up smoking in the last 20 years,'' Carlisle said. ``Unlike hard drugs, thousands take up the habit and give up the habit each day, and they don't have to beat up old ladies to finance it.''
``Essentially, this is not a new report,'' he said. ``There's no new scientific evidence. It's merely a collection of existing research, which has been about for some time.''
But Clive Bates, director of the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health, applauded the report's conclusions, saying, ``The fact that they are legal is irrelevant - cigarettes are hard drugs by any physical or medical definition.''