7. Do additives make tobacco more attractive?
- 7.1 How do additives affect the attractiveness of tobacco products?
- 7.2 What does the evidence say about specific additives?
- 7.3 What are the current trends in tobacco use?
- 7.4 Could additives have different effects in different groups of users?
7.1 How do additives affect the attractiveness of tobacco products?
Additives make smoking more appealing by several routes. They make the smoke look more attractive, fuller and more white. This can make the smoke less annoying for other people as well as more appealing to the smoker.
Additives intended to affect smoke properties also include those incorporated to reduce smoke odour, or provide aromas which mask the smell of the smoke. Additives to the paper used in cigarette wrappers, such as magnesium oxide, reduce particle size, making smoke less visible.
Other additives can make it easier to start smoking by making smoke cooler, sweeter or milder, and reducing throat and lung irritation. The harshness of a cigarette, felt as a tendency to a raspy throat, is partly due to the ratio of nicotine to tar, with higher nicotine associated with greater harshness. Nicotine salts, which deliver the drug while reducing the irritation produced by pure nicotine, may be added.
Flavourings can also reduce harshness, and accompany branding of tobacco products as “smooth”. They can improve the taste as well, and perhaps make it more attractive to specific groups of customers. Liquorice, menthol and sugars are all used in this way. Menthol might also encourage deeper inhalation of the smoke.
All of these characteristics are taken into account in branding particular products – and for many additives, their effect on attractiveness depends on a combination of properties which may be hard to separate.
7.2 What does the evidence say about specific additives?
Mentholated cigarettes are more widely smoked in the USA than in Europe, where their market share is between 1 and 5%. Menthol passes largely unchanged into tobacco smoke and acts directly on nerve endings, creating a cooling sensation and an impression of easier breathing. Its effects in cigarettes have been extensively studied, including investigations of smoke constituents, nicotine metabolism, how often and how deeply smokers puff on their cigarettes, how much carbon monoxide is breathed out, and degree of dependence on smoking.
It has been suggested that the cooling and local anaesthetic effects of menthol lead to deeper inhalation, but current data are inconclusive on this point.
7.3 What are the current trends in tobacco use?
Ninety per cent of tobacco sold in the EU member states is in manufactured cigarettes. Smoking prevalence had stabilised or is decreasing in most Member States. The latest comprehensive data are from the World Health Organisation in 2006. They show that 27.5 per cent of adults smoke in the EU, with more men (33.2 per cent) and women (21.8 per cent) smoking. The average number of cigarettes smoked is 14.4 per day, with men again smoking more than women. Consumption is higher, on average, in Eastern European Member States.
These rates have generally been stable since 2002. Data from a more recent Eurobarometer survey offer more detail on smoking preferences. Taste is the most important reason for brand choice among 22 per cent of EU smokers, with price most important for 6 per cent. One in ten smokers believes that a less harmful cigarette tastes different. On average 11 per cent of EU adults have tried a waterpipe, though regular daily use only reaches one per cent. Young adults are more likely to be water pipe users.
Although smoking is more common among men, the gender difference is reversed in younger age groups. More girls than boys smoke in most EU Member States where data has been gathered, although more boys smoke in Eastern European countries.
7.4 Could additives have different effects in different groups of users?
The diversity of additives and flavourings in tobacco products provides opportunities for manufacturers to market products designed to meet the preferences of particular groups, and to target new customers in those groups. There is evidence from industry documents that flavourings have been used to target younger smokers. There is also evidence that younger smokers are more likely to use flavoured cigarettes and that taste and smell are important influences on which brands they prefer to smoke. However, data from the UK suggest that the brand preferences of children and adults are quite similar, and that price is a strong influence. There may also be an emerging preference, again indicated by UK data, for brands marketed as “additive free”. However, the UK market is significantly different from other EU members.
In the USA a much higher proportion of African Americans than European Americans smoke mentholated cigarettes.