Source: The Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jan 1999
Author: Lois Rogers and Stephen Bevan


TOBACCO companies face a government investigation over accusations that
they are making cigarettes more attractive to children by adding
sweeteners, cocoa and even liquorice.

Critics of the industry say the tactic is similar to that used by the
manufacturers of alco-pops, who used sweet-tasting additives to disguise
the taste of alcoholic drinks in what was seen as a blatant attempt to sell
to children.

As well as cocoa, coffee and vanilla, approved cigarette ingredients now
include honey, maple syrup, molasses, liquorice and any number of fruit
extracts from pineapple and cherry to apricot and banana. There is,
however, no obligation on manufacturers to describe such additives on
cigarette packaging.

Overall, there are more than 600 compounds on the list of approved
cigarette additives and the Department of Health is concerned that more are
being developed. "We take this very seriously," it said. "We keep a close
eye on anything which makes cigarettes more attractive."

Cigarette manufacturers have an acute need to recruit new smokers - each
year about 120,000 of their customers die from smoking-related diseases.
Research shows that people who do not start smoking before they are 20
years old are unlikely to start at all - meaning that the industry must
hook new smokers in their childhood or teens.

The success of the industry in such tactics is shown by recent surveys
revealing that 5% of 11-year-olds are addicted to tobacco, rising to 43% of
15-year-olds. It means that more than 250,000 of the 600,000 15-year-olds
in England and Wales are smokers - even though it is illegal for them to
buy cigarettes.

Last month the health department held a meeting with industry
representatives and it has since written to them demanding more information
on the substances used.

Last week it was revealed that the Marlboro brand contains a substance
derived from fructose, the naturally occurring sugar found in fruit. The
effect of such additives is to reduce or disguise the bitter, acrid taste
of burning tobacco.

Clive Bates, chief executive of Ash, the anti-smoking pressure group, said
such additives were needed because it was hard to persuade children to
smoke when the taste was so unpleasant at first.

The Health Education Authority said 6,000 children, some as young as eight,
have called its Quitline in the past three weeks to seek help in giving up

Chris Proctor, head of science at British American Tobacco, denied the
industry was trying to recruit young customers: "These substances are only
present as flavour enhancers, to give a low-tar cigarette a bit more body
and a bit more flavour."

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