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Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK


Smoking at any cost

Debi smokes through a hole in her neck

Debi had her first cigarette when she was 13, at 41 she developed throat cancer and, despite surgery, she remains hooked and now smokes through a hole in her neck.

The stoma, as the hole is called, allows her to continue smoking long after her body is naturally able to do so.

[ image: The hole allows Debi to feed her addiction]
The hole allows Debi to feed her addiction
Her desperation is typical of many smokers, so addicted to tobacco that they cannot stop, even after life-threatening cancer.

"I can't remember doing very many things without a cigarette in my hand," she says.

"It's almost like a twin - a Siamese twin - somebody that was there constantly, like someone is embracing you, like a friend is there, everything's going to be alright.

"I light the cigarette with suction from my mouth, and after it's lit I put it to the stoma. I'd like to say I just take a little puff, but you don't, you get all that you can," she says.

"It's like, oh God, yes!"

Industry denial

Yet, despite such strong evidence of nicotine's hold over the body, cigarette manufacturers denied for years that it was addictive.

It sat on its own evidence of this for years, insisting that nicotine was a non-addictive substance. It preferred to say that people smoked out of habit, not through compulsion.

[ image: Victor DeNoble made a startling discovery]
Victor DeNoble made a startling discovery
But health campaigners wanted nicotine's addictive qualities acknowledged so that tobacco could be regarded as a drug in the same light as heroin and cocaine.

Dr Victor DeNoble, a former research scientist at Philip Morris, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, proved that nicotine was addictive under laboratory conditions.

While working for the company, he found that rats would develop an addiction, taking nicotine by pressing a lever first thing in the morning throughout the day and last thing at night.

"This was very revealing to us - here was an animal mimicking what a person does - and that said something that was very important to us.

"It said that cigarette smoking was a biological process of addiction, not just a habit."

The company ordered Dr DeNoble to withdraw work from publication, moved company lawyers into the room next to the laboratory and shut down the research.

He was told to destroy all his work - although crucially he held on to some of his notes, which did not become public for another 10 years.


A breakthrough came for the anti-smoking lobby in 1994 when seven tobacco company chief executive orders swore in court that, in their opinion, nicotine was not addictive.

Campaigners later gained possession of documents removed from Brown and Williamson Tobacco which started with the line "we are in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug," says Mike Moore the Attorney General of Mississippi.

Professor Stan Glants of the University of California was sent the documents - he gave them to the university library, which put them on the Internet.

"They knew nicotine was addictive was in 1963, they knew smoking caused cancer in the 50s, and they had elaborate and intelligent plans to keep it covered up, to keep it away from the public and to keep people smoking," he says.

You can find out more about the struggle to find the truth about smoking on Tobacco Wars on BBC One at 22.15 BST, 21.15 GMT

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