German scientists demand a ban on tobacco additives
The German Cancer Research Centre (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum) last week demanded that certain additives used in tobacco products be banned because they increase the risk of cancer and tobacco addiction, particularly among children and young adults.
Experts from the centre, in Heidelberg, and from the Institute for Law and Economy in Hamburg presented two new publications that analysed internal tobacco industry documents concerning the composition of tobacco products and additives.
They told a press conference in Berlin that the documents showed how the tobacco industry added certain substances to cigarettes to make them more palatable to children and young people. Menthol, for example, was added to most cigarettes (not just to those described as mentholated) because inhaling menthol has an anaesthetic effect, allowing first time smokers, who were often children, to take deep puffs.
Sugar and aromatics were also added to make cigarettes taste better. The addictive potential was also increased by manipulation of filters and cigarette sheaths, which meant that smokers took deeper breaths and therefore had greater exposure to carcinogenic and other toxic substances, Dr Martina Poetschke-Langer from the centre told the press conference.
She said that the documents also proved that additives such as ammonia, urea, menthol, sugar, and cocoa had been blended with raw tobacco over the last five decades. "The formula for tobacco addiction was to take nicotine, decrease acidity, and add aromatic substances which enable smokers to take deep breaths."
Professor Heinz-Walter Thielmann, also from the centre, said: "According to legal regulations cigarettes are allowed to contain up to 600 different substances and chemically undefined mixtures which make up 10% of the total weight of one cigarette."
The experts said that the tobacco industry had carried out these systematic manipulations without informing consumer agencies and governments and while underplaying the health risks.
Michael Adams, a Hamburg lawyer, said that the US government had taken legal proceedings against the tobacco industry for secretly manipulating the contents of cigarettes, and he called on the German government to do the same.
Wolfgang Heiner, director of the German Cigarette Industry Association, said that the criticised additives had been legally permitted since 1964.
The German Cancer Research Centreâ€™s publications are available (in German) at www.tabakkontrolle.de/