Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have revealed that tobacco giant Philip Morris knew more about the addictive effects of nicotine and cigarettes than previously stated. The revelation comes in a new paper published this week in PLOS Medicine highlighting that Philip Morris knew about tobacco dependency for years, and that they understood the addictive elements went far beyond nicotine.
Researchers compared formerly secret documents from Altria (previously Philip Morris Companies, Inc.) with public statements made by the company through 2006. While the company acknowledged the nicotine was a primary driver of addiction, its teams of internal scientists also knew that a wide range of social, psychological, and environmental elements also figured in. This latter part was the one they wouldn’t disclose publicly.
Study author Jesse Elias tells website Gizmodo that “It’s a contradictor we found between their public stance and their private stance until 2006.”
The news that Philip Morris knew about tobacco dependency is not particularly surprising. Science had revealed that nicotine was addictive years prior, something the company was willing to admit as part of a massive 1998 settlement. What is surprising is that the company knew about the other addictive elements involved in the smoking process – ones that weren’t purely chemical.
“Research demonstrates that social and environmental cues associated with smoking —e.g., seeing an advertisement, seeing an ashtray, drinking a beer, spending time with smoking friends—produce physiological and psychological changes in the user that can trigger substance use and maintain nicotine-seeking behavior, without the administration of nicotine.”
So, next time you think about having an after dinner cigarette, or want to buy a pack after seeing an ad on a billboard, remember that Philip Morris knew about this years ago – and they used it as a tool to help get and keep you hooked on their product.
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