Big Tobacco Is Making Cigarettes More Addictive Than Ever [Graphic]

Tobacco companies design products specifically targeted towards groups vulnerable to addiction—like kids.

Photo Credit: Pixelbliss / Shutterstock.com

The following article first appeared on Substance.com

The cigarettes your grandpa smoked were nothing compared to what’s out there these days. Over the last half-century, cigarettes have gotten more addictive and harmful, as a new infographic (below) by The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids helpfully illustrates.

To combat almost half a century of negative press, tobacco companies are taking increasingly desperate measures to keep people lighting up. In addition to the nearly 12.5 billion dollars spent on advertising every year, they’ve added various chemicals to make smoking more addictive—many of which carry dangerous health risks.

One additive is levulinic acid, which is more commonly found as a precursor to biofuels. A 2005 study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health showed that levulinic acid reduces the pH of cigarette smoke and desensitizes the upper respiratory tract, increasing the potential for cigarette smoke to be inhaled deeper into the lungs. Levulinic acid may also literally alter the minds of smokers—enhancing the binding of nicotine to neurons that would be otherwise unresponsive to the drug.

Other additives, like sugars, acetaldehydes and menthol, and engineering advancements such as ventilated filters make smoke easier to inhale. With each puff, smoke from today’s cigarette penetrates deeper into lungs, and carries with it a host of addiction-enhancing chemicals that weren’t found in cigarettes 50 years ago.

A 2003 study suggests that these tobacco companies design products specifically targeted towards groups vulnerable to addiction—including kids and teenagers, and people with pre-existing health conditions, like obesity.

Although the percentage of smokers in the US has been decreasing in recent years, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable illness.

Mei Schultz is a sophomore at Columbia University who is a former editorial intern at Substance.com.