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Harvard: Additives in cigarettes lead to tobacco addiction, not the nicotine

Posted by Matt Rowland on

A recent Harvard University study attempts to resolve the on-going debate regarding the allegedly addiction qualities of vaping technology compared to combustible cigarettes.   The confusion usually lies in the related definitions of tobacco and nicotine.  Contrary to many publications by anti-tobacco lobbyists, the two substances are not synonymous.  Tobacco is not nicotine, and nicotine is not tobacco.

It is this fundamental fact that is the basis for the Harvard research.  A team of scientists led by Dr. Hillel R. Alpert began their study by focusing on the pyrazines in conventional cigarettes rather than the nicotine concentrations.  Pyrazines is a fancy term for those thousands of chemical additives that are found in cigarettes but not in the e-liquids of vapor products. 

Related Article:  PENN STATE STUDY SHOWS E-CIGS ARE ‘LESS ADDICTIVE’ THAN SMOKING

According to the study’s abstract, these pyrazines were not always a common ingredient in tobacco products.  Their introduction began when “light” and “low tar” cigarettes were the hip, new trend among the smoking public.  Coincidentally, this was also around the same time that then-President Clinton began his War on Tobacco.

In his 1993 Health Plan, Clinton sought to implement massive sin taxes on the cigarette industry by as much as $1 per pack almost overnight.  When inflation and cost of living allowances are taken into consideration, that figure is equal to about $1.70 today.  And in Europe, the sin taxes were even greater, averaging about 73% of the total price in 1990 and growing to 77% today.

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Understandably, Big Tobacco had a problem.  With cigarette prices soaring all around the world, they needed to find a way to keep people smoking.  How did they do it?  They allegedly increased the numbers and levels of addictive pyrazines.   The Harvard team wanted to conduct a study to prove once and for all just how additive these chemicals can be, specifically in comparison to nicotine.

The Harvard nicotine vs. pyrazines study

The Harvard scientists needed historical data for their current research.  After all, it would be nearly impossible to locate several packs of different brands of cigarettes dating back some 25-years or longer. 

So, they relied on already published scientific literature from reliable public health agencies in accordance with other data acquired through internal research published by Big Tobacco.  And according to their findings, its these pyrazines rather than the nicotine that makes smoking so addictive. 

“Cigarette additives and ingredients with chemosensory effects that promote addiction by acting synergistically with nicotine, increasing product appeal, easing smoking initiation, discouraging cessation or promoting relapse should be regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Current models of tobacco abuse liability could be revised to include more explicit roles with regard to non-nicotine constituents that enhance abuse potential.”

For the vaping industry, this is good news because the associated e-liquids are essentially pyrazine-free.  E-liquids are comprised of four basic ingredients - water, flavoring, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin.  To be clear, some e-liquids may contain a limited number of pyrazines, especially those manufactured outside of the USA, but the levels are still significantly less in comparison to combustible cigarettes.

It is research like that from Harvard University which further supports previously published reports by such noteworthy UK officials like the Royal College of Physicians which claims vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking.  The Harvard University study entitled A study of pyrazines in cigarettes and how additives might be used to enhance tobacco addiction can be located on the BMJ Tobacco Control website.   

Related Article:  FARSALINOS VAPING STUDY COMPARES NICOTINE LEVELS OF E-CIGS, HNB, AND CIGARETTES


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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints, policy or company position of Vapes.com, the rest of our staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.



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