“The ‘Modern’ Cigarette: Is Smoking Riskier Today?” by Joanne H. Ebner, RN, BSN, COHN-S

“The ‘Modern’ Cigarette: Is Smoking Riskier Today?” by Joanne H. Ebner, RN, BSN, COHN-S

Joanne H. Ebner, RN, BSN, COHN-S is a Cancer Prevention Nurse at AAMC. Her article, highlighting the dangers of the modern cigarette, was published in the February edition of the Oncology Nursing Society’s (ONS) newsletter, Prevention/Early Detection.

In 1604 King James VI of Scotland and I of England expressed the following about tobacco smoking (Wikipedia, 2008).

“…a custome lothsome to the eye, hateful to the Nose, harmeful to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomlesse.”

This is one of the earliest anti-tobacco publications; yet, in the 21st century, we still are faced with one of the most pervasive and deadliest products available for human consumption. A number of factors contribute to the perpetuation of tobacco dependence. One factor worth examining is the “modern” cigarette, the science behind making a more addictive, and deadly, cigarette.

Nicotine, known to be the addictive chemical naturally occurring in the tobacco plant, is a powerful psychoactive drug. It may be surprising to note that, compared with cocaine and morphine, nicotine is 5 to 10 times more potent in producing psychoactive effects in humans (Kozlowski, Henningfield, & Brigham, 2001). Smoking tobacco is the most efficient means of delivering nicotine into the body. The relatively large surfaces of the lungs allow for easy absorption. Inhaled nicotine from cigarettes gets into the bloodstream and consequently the brain much faster than nicotine administered through other methods.

Nicotine may not be the only substance that contributes to addiction. New research is emerging regarding the “changing cigarette.” Advancing science is not only advantageous to understanding and treating addiction but also contributes to the promotion of addiction. A look at recent headlines provides a glimpse into the emergence of the new cigarette “Nicotine Up Sharply in Many Cigarettes,” Washington Post, August 31, 2006; “Philip Morris Admits Making Cigarettes More Addictive,” Sidney Morning Herald, July 27, 2000; “Cigarettes Riskier Today,” Newsmax.com, May 18, 2009. The “modern” cigarette, according to new research, is being engineered to be more addictive. Additives increase the levels of “free” nicotine enhancing the addictive properties of cigarettes. Cocoa is added to dilate the airways of smokers allowing smoke an easier, deeper passage into the lungs. Eugenol and menthol numbs the throat to mask the irritating effects of inhaling hot, chemical-filled smoke, allowing smokers to inhale more deeply.

To read the full article, go to onsopcontent.ons.org/Publications/SIGNewsletters/prev/prev20.1.html#story3


  1. Posted by Justin, at Reply

    Joanne does a great job for us in public relations, too, and has helped out a lot with podcasts. You can listen to them here: www.aahs.org/media_new/podcasts/wellness_podcasts.php

  2. Posted by Amy T., at Reply

    Ms. Ebner;
    Given that smokers can be triggered to “light up” depending on the situational environment, cigarette smoking is not only an addiction to the nicotine, it’s a habit. Would you agree? Are current treatment options addressing the psychological addiction as well as the physiological addiction?

  3. Posted by Joanne Ebner, at Reply

    I make sure people, particularly young people, are aware of the tobacco company’s intentions of getting them strongly addicted in order to discourage them from ever starting smoking. If individuals are already dependent on nicotine, treatment needs to be tailored to address stronger addiction so that people can “quit comfortably.” I will be doing a follow-up article on the nurses’ role in treating nicotine dependence. Thanks for your interest!

  4. Posted by George L Davis, at Reply

    I started smoking as a young crew member during long flights over the Mediterrian. Our flight lunches included two cigarettes provided by the military via the tobacco companies. It did not take long for those two not to be sufficient. That habit lasted over fifty years. Though I stopped several years ago, I am prone to develop problems such as bronchitis more often than non smokers. Hopefully young people today are not given a start by tobacco makers free offers. Hope this article creates an awarness of the profit goal of tobacco companies.

  5. Posted by Sherry Perkins, at Reply

    Joanne- very interesting change in cigarettes -how does this influence your teaching?

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