Wednesday, February 17, 1999 Published at 01:35 GMT
Additives ban move to cut smoking
Far more teenagers now smoke than a decade ago
The government is expected to propose tougher regulations controlling sweeteners in cigarettes.
The government made cutting smoking among young people a key focus of its White Paper on Tobacco, published in December.
Health Secretary Frank Dobson said he wanted to see the numbers of teenage smokers fall from 13% to 9% by 2010.
The last decade has seen a 70% rise in teenagers smoking compared with a drop in the number of older people who smoke.
Mr Dobson says most people begin smoking when they are young.
A coalition of health groups, including the British Heart Foundation and the Royal College of Physicians, wrote to the government last autumn, pointing out that over 600 additives can legally be added to tobacco products.
In a statement they said: "Additives to tobacco products present profoundly different problems to food additives as they may cause harm by increasing the use of tobacco."
They say the additives may appear harmless in themselves, but can increase the addictiveness of cigarettes.
Sweeteners such as sugar can also be added to cigarettes, making them more appealing to young people.
"There can be no justification for such additives," the statement read.
They say a 1997 voluntary agreement is unlikely to be effective as it only applies to new additives and those which are toxic.
Dr Martin Jarvis of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund said he wants the government to force tobacco companies to reveal what additives are in particular brands of cigarettes and to show that they do not have a damaging effect on public health.
"We want them to justify their use of additives because we are concerned that they may not be toxic in themselves but could have bad effects from a public health perspective if they make it easier for people to inhale or make them more attractive to young people," he said.
Tobacco companies deny they have deliberately attempted to get young people hooked on smoking.