Nicotine is the primary addictive chemical in tobacco and has various positive effects on the body, such as decreasing appetite to control weight gain, improving mood, and increasing the ability to focus. According to the American Heart Association, nicotine addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to break. When smoking, nicotine only takes 10 seconds to travel to the brain and deliver its effects, but the feelings of relaxation it induces is also short-lived. 85-90% of nicotine is metabolized by the liver and removed from the body, and in a few hours, the body will crave the effects of nicotine again. The pharmacological and behavioral characteristics of nicotine addiction are similar to drugs like heroin and cocaine (1).
These facts about nicotine are interesting, and maybe even surprising for some, but simply pointing them out in anti-smoking advertisements do not seem to resonate among youth. They are already aware that smoking can be addictive because of nicotine. However, they are not currently addicted to cigarettes, so telling them addiction can come very quickly seems like a false statement, which will not motivate them to stop smoking (2, 5).
It is more effective to use the addictive qualities of nicotine as support to expose the tobacco industry’s manipulative tactics (4, 5). In 2006, The District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Philip Morris released false and deceptive statements about their products to their consumers and forced the company to issue the truth about cigarettes. Philip Morris admitted that cigarettes are deadly and nicotine is addictive. They also admitted that they deliberately control the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to create and sustain addiction (6). One study shows that nicotine yields in cigarette smoke have increased between 1997-2005 among all major manufacturers. This suggests the industry continues to design cigarettes that provide consumers with a greater dose of nicotine even when there are no behavioral changes (3).
This evidence is very conclusive of the industry’s cruel intentions and the message that the tobacco industry is controlling their consumers through nicotine has not been overexposed like emphasizing nicotine’s addictive qualities. This information is more shocking when youth become aware of it. Teens smoke as a way to demonstrate their independence, but it angers them to find that they are breaking away from the grasp of one authority only to fall under someone else’s control (2). Generating a more emotional response leads to better ad recall and increased intentions to stop smoking (5).
1. American Heart Association. “Why is it so hard to quit?” American Health Association, 12 October 2012. Web. 12 June 2012. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/QuitSmoking/QuittingSmoking/Why-is-it-so-hard-to-quit_UCM_324053_Article.jsp
2. Beaudoin CE. Exploring Antismoking Ads: Appeals, Themes, and Consequences. Journal of Health Communication 2002; 7: 123-137.
3. Connolly GN, Alpert HR, Wayne GF, Koh H. Trends in nicotine yield in smoke and its relationship with design characteristics among popular US cigarette brands, 1997-2005. Tobacco control 2007; 16(5): e5.
4. Goldman LK, Glantz SA. Evaluation of Antismoking Advertising Campaigns. JAMA 1998; 279: 772-777.
5. Schar E, Gutierrez K, Murphy-Hoefer R, Nelson DE. Tobacco Use Prevention Media Campaigns: Lessons Learned from Youth in Nine Countries. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on smoking and Health; 2006.
6. US District Court for the District of Columbia United States of America, Plaintiff, versus Philip Morris, USA, et al, defendants. Civil Action No. 99-2496 (GK). Final opinion. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-dcd-1_99-cv-02496/pdf/USCOURTS-dcd-1_99-cv-02496-14.pdf (accessed 12 June 2013)