British Doctors -
Nicotine Is As
Addictive As Heroin
By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Nicotine is a powerful addictive substance on a par with heroin and cocaine and should be controlled like a drug or medicine, British doctors said on Tuesday.
In a hard-hitting report prepared by international experts, the Royal College of Physicians said cigarettes are nicotine delivery products and said nicotine addiction should be recognized as a major medical and social problem.
``It is time for nicotine to become a major health priority in Britain,'' Sir George Alberti, the president of the college, said in the report.
``Recognition of this central role of nicotine addiction is important because it has major implications for the way that smoking is managed by doctors and other health professionals, and for the way in which harmful nicotine delivery products such as cigarettes should be regulated and controlled in society.''
The tobacco industry disputed the report's findings.
The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, which represents leading tobacco firms, said it overstated the danger of smoking.
``We do not believe that this product is as addictive as the report would suggest. Unlike hard drugs, people do give it up every day and people do not have to fund their habit by beating up old ladies,'' spokesman John Carlisle said.
The report said the way tar and nicotine are measured in cigarettes is misleading. Brands described as 'light' and 'mild' should be banned unless they are proven to have a reduced health risk, it said.
Warning labels on tobacco products should make it clear how addictive cigarettes are, the report said, adding that nicotine replacement therapy, which helps smokers quit, should be available on the government-funded National Health Service.
``At a time when smoking still causes one in every five deaths in Britain, measures designed to achieve further reductions in smoking are clearly important and, if successful, will realize substantial public health benefits,'' Alberti added.
The anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) called the report a ``devastating critique'' of low-tar cigarettes and the measures used to entice people to smoke.
``The Royal College has sounded the death-knell for low tar cigarettes and the comforting but wrong idea that these are somehow less dangerous,'' Clive Bates, the director of ASH, said.
``You couldn't have a more withering and detailed critique of the methodologies underpinning the regulation of the harm caused by cigarettes,'' he added

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