Tobacco companies targeting young people, says scientist

Menthol added to anaesthetise the throat to bitter effects of smoke, claims Prof Cotter

The average cigarette contains over 60 cancer-causing agents and other chemicals designed to get young people addicted, an Irish Cancer Society conference has been told. Photograph: Reuters

The average cigarette contains over 60 cancer-causing agents and other chemicals designed to get young people addicted, an Irish Cancer Society conference has been told. Photograph: Reuters

Sat, Sep 21, 2013, 01:00


Tobacco companies are adding chemicals to cigarettes specifically to get young people addicted, one of the country’s leading scientists has claimed.

Prof Tom Cotter of UCC’s biochemistry department said the tobacco industry was targeting young people in order to ensure that “the money keeps rolling in and who cares if they get lung cancer”.

The average cigarette contains more than 60 cancer-causing agents as well as other chemicals designed to get young people addicted, he told an Irish Cancer Society conference yesterday.

Prof Cotter, who has been involved in several major cancer drug discoveries, said that if blackberries were found to contain the same level of carcinogens no one would be allowed to sell blackberry jam that killed half of its users, as cigarettes do.

Among the substances added to tobacco is menthol, which anaesthetises the throat to the harsh, bitter effects of smoke, he said. Ammonia is added to “freebase” nicotine so it enters the blood stream quickly while another additive served to open up the small airways of the lungs.


Bittersweet time
Meanwhile, RTÉ presenter Áine Lawlor, who has survived breast cancer, told the National Conference for Cancer Survivorship that the development of new treatments for the disease was a “really exciting story”.

New medical treatments could eventually make cancer a disease that can be controlled like diabetes, but this was also “a bittersweet time” for patients, she said.

“For a lot of people, there is a sense that medicine is moving up a gear, but for others this is not enough or it won’t come soon enough.” Ms Lawlor likened a cancer diagnosis to “learning a language you never want to speak”.
Dr Susan O’Reilly, director of the National Cancer Control Programme, said one-quarter of cancer survivors have unmet needs a year after treatment. While the vast majority of survivors rated their care as excellent or very good, three out of four are not sure who to contact for advice outside office hours.

Dr O’Reilly said that with more people surviving the disease – half of all people diagnosed with invasive cancers will recover – there was a growing emphasis on survivorship care plans.

The number of cancer cases will double between 2010 and 2030, mostly because of the ageing of the population, she pointed out, and this will pose a significant challenge for the health system. At present, there was about 120,000 survivors of cancer in Ireland.