Thursday, August 31, 2006

Conspiracy goes up in smoke

Everytime Malcolm manages to suppress his paranoia, someone manages to renew it.

If there was any doubt that Big Tobacco had any sense of morality, the finest scintilla of that doubt would be puffed away by the front page of today's Washington Post. A story by David Brown, borrowed from the Boston Globe, blows the smoke away from a Massachusetts' Public Health report on the way the tobacco-pedlars are upping the nicotine-levels (and thereby the addictive element) in fags.

And the ramping up is greatest in the cancer-sticks favoured by young smokers. Here is Brown's summary of the facts, and they speak eloquently for themselves:

As measured using a method that mimics actual smoking, the nicotine delivered per cigarette -- the "yield" -- rose 9.9 percent from 1998 to 2004 -- from 1.72 milligrams to 1.89. The total nicotine content increased an average of 16.6 percent in that period, and the amount of nicotine per gram of tobacco increased 11.3 percent.

The study, reported by the Boston Globe, found that 92 of 116 brands tested had higher nicotine yields in 2004 than in 1998, and 52 had increases of more than 10 percent.

Boxes of Doral lights, a low-tar brand made by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., had the biggest increase in yield, 36 percent. Some of this may have been the result of an increase in the total amount of tobacco put in that brand's cigarettes, one expert said.

The nicotine in Marlboro products, preferred by two-thirds of high school smokers, increased 12 percent. Kool lights increased 30 percent. Two-thirds of African American smokers use menthol brands.

Not only did most brands have more nicotine in 2004, the number of brands with very high nicotine yields also rose.

In 1998, Newport 100s and unfiltered Camels were tied for highest nicotine yield at 2.9 milligrams. In 2004, Newport had risen to 3.2 milligrams, and five brands measured 3 milligrams or higher.

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