A new study coming from Harvard researchers pinpoint the risks of pyrazines or additives in light and e-cigarettes contributing to habit addiction.
While talking about cigarette addiction, everyone has one suspect in mind: nicotine. Yet, nicotine alone is not responsible for habit-forming, the new study suggests. Following the second world war, giant tobacco product companies were faced with lawsuits based on the allegations of cigarette smoking related to cancer.
To prevent further legal hustle, the like of Philip Morris and others went about the issue smoothly and turned the tobacco industry towards low-tar cigarettes. Reports were coming in that the public was less and less picking up the habit or maintaining it as the new light cigarettes had an awful taste or none at all.
Thus began an era of research into chemical additives that would help improve taste and give a full satisfactory experience to customers. Nowadays, additives and particularly pyrazines are found in all cigarettes on the market, with a particular focus in light cigarettes and electronic ones.
There are little under 600 additives which are officially approved for cigarette use. From these, pyrazines are specific to the aroma and tobacco flavor. In the industry, they are usually referred to as the ‘brown notes’ specific sometimes to cocoa or nutty undertones.
Of course, these added tones lead the smoker to the false feeling that this way the cigarette is safer, smoother and not as risky to health as a Marlboro Red would be for instance.
Yet, things don’t look quite as rosy, warn researchers in the Harvard study. Some additives are approved for cooking and eating. And while they are on the list of approved additives for cigarettes, their effects when burned or inhaled might have a completely different way of manifesting.
In the study, the Harvard researchers looked at documents resulted from the litigations in the past. At a close look, the first brand of low-tar cigarettes tweaked to address the requirements of the market included five additives out of which three were pyrazines.
Pyrazines are responsible for acting on sensory receptors along with improving cigarettes’ aroma. For a dwindling tobacco industry at the time, the effect pyrazines had on sensory receptors proved highly beneficial. Smokers did not complain of harshness or irritation or awful taste.
Further investigation showed that pyrazines not only act along with nicotine to create habit-forming behaviour, but they also act independently.
Authors of the study wrote that:
“Taken together, pyrazines appear to increase product appeal and make it easier for non-smokers to initiate smoking, more difficult for current smokers to quit, much easier for former smokers to relapse into smoking, and may mask the risks of both active and passive smoking”.
In addition, the study points out that currently, the FDA banned additives for cigarettes that are labeled generally as either sweet or sour. The problem is that specific additives are not included in the same category. So, labeling the additive as sweet goes against the regulation. Yet, labeling the additive as tart cherry doesn’t prompt a reaction from the FDA.
In the same line of arguments, flavors such as menthol, vanilla, licorice, etc. are used to promote smoking as a smoother as well as richer sensory experience.
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