After decades denying the role of nicotine dependence in smoking addiction, tobacco company Philip Morris has finally admitted that nicotine is the main driver of smoking behavior in 2000, though it said their internal understanding of smoking addiction was more complex.
The company defended saying they simultaneously promoted nicotine reduction products alongside advertising and policy campaigns to promote smoking behavior, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine.
The research, by Jesse Elias, Yogi Hendlin, and Pamela Ling of the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed previously secret documents made available as a result of litigation against the tobacco industry to explore the company’s understanding of addiction before and after publicly admitting nicotine’s addictiveness.
The researchers found that Philip Morris continued studying addiction through the 2000s to develop successful and potentially safer nicotine products, and that from the mid-1990s to at least 2006, its internal models of addiction branded them on psychological, social, and environmental factors than nicotine in driving cigarette use.
Elias and his colleagues argue that Philip Morris’s outward support for nicotine’s role in driving smoking allowed the company to divert from social and environmental interventions to promotion of potentially reduced but harmful products.
The researchers note that the industry documents archive may have been missed some key studies though they emphasize that reducing smoking prevalence requires policies that address all factors driving smoking addiction such as advertising restrictions, plain packaging, tobacco taxes, and widespread smoke-free ban.
The authors say: “As PM’s internal research indicates, positive health outcomes are more likely to be achieved by complementing NRT and behavioral counseling with ever-stronger society-level interventions addressing the psychological, social, and environmental components of addiction.”