WASHINGTON -- Anti-smoking forces, armed with Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's report that cigarettes and other tobacco products are addictive, renewed their cry Monday for federal regulation of the tobacco industry.
'Dr. Koop's report this morning established beyond any scientific doubt that tobacco products are addictive. They are drugs, and they therefore should be regulated by the Food and Drug Adminstration, an agency that regulates the manufacturing, sale, labeling, advertising and promotion of other drugs,' said Scott Ballin of the Coalition on Smoking OR Health.
The group, which includes the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, supports a bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., to require a new label on cigarette packages and advertisements warning smokers of the addictive danger of nicotine.
In releasing his findings, Koop observed that tobacco is 'something that has enjoyed a special place' in the federal regulatory structure, being classified as neither a food, cosmetic nor a drug. Koop said his position that tobacco products are as addictive as cocaine or heroin 'probably will result in a groundswell of interest in having them regulated as a drug.'
Rep. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said tobacco is also exempt from a law that prohibits the addition of cancer-causing agents to foods and drugs.
'The surgeon general's finding that nicotine is addictive is a fundamental challenge to Congress to make our laws consistent with medical and scientific fact,' said Durbin, who wrote the recent law banning smoking on most commercial airline flights.
Dr. Jack Henningfield, laboratory chief at the National Institute on Drug Abuse addiction research center, said, 'Most of us are very happy to see nicotine lumped where it should be: with other addictive drugs.'
'It gets it (nicotine) out of the potato chip category,' he said. 'People use the word addictive so loosely these days -- they use it for potato chips, candy, sex, television and everything else. This is a psychoactive drug. It has effects on the brain.
But Sen. Terry Sanford, D-N.C., whose state is a leading tobacco producer, said, 'Hysteria is running rampant. In the middle of a supposed war on drugs, the surgeon general has mistaken the enemy.
'In comparing tobacco -- a legitimate and legal substance -- to insidious narcotics such as heroin and cocaine, he has directed 'friendly fire' at American farmers and businessmen.'
But the Tobacco Institute, which has never admitted that tobacco smoking causes lung cancer, called Koop's statement linking nicotine with cocaine and heroin 'unfortunate and unwarranted.'
'In fact, any feelings persons might have upon giving up smoking are those that would be expected when one is frustrated by giving up any desired activity,' the institute said in a statement.
'It should be noted, however, that a physical dependence to caffeine has also long been claimed, as well as the resulting 'physical withdrawal' symptoms.'
The American Medical Association said it agreed with Koop's report, saying, 'Physicians assisting patients who wish to quit smoking have seen the addictive nature of tobacco firsthand.'
The AMA said federal and state governments should raise the age of purchase to age 21, ban tobacco sales in vending machines, label tobacco products as addictive and ban tobacco advertising.
The American Academy of Family Physicians said Koop's statement confirms 'what many smokers and former smokers know very well,' while Citizens Against Tobacco Smoke called smoking 'more than a nasty habit. It's the most widespread example of drug dependence in our country.'
Koop said he sympathized with tobacco farmers who could be hurt by reduced consumption and tighter regulation of tobacco. But he commented that many of the farmers are 'captives of the cigarette makers' and would do better finding another way of earning a living.
Koop held out little hope that his warnings about nicotine addiction would have any impact on new foreign trade policy, in which U.S. tobacco firms are taking advantage of relaxed import regulations to hawk their cigarettes aggressively in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.