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What is meant by a "safe" cigarette?

A "safe" cigarette is one that has been modified in such a manner as to significantly reduce the amount of tar and nicotine delivered to the body. This reduction is thought to make cigarettes safer to use. Modifications include the introduction of filters but also can include chemical modification of the tobacco. Although once advertised as safer, cigarette filters actually do not make cigarette smoking safer. Filters, low-tar and nicotine cigarettes, and mentholated cigarettes are not any safer than unfiltered, regular tobacco cigarettes. In an effort to address smokers' fears about the detrimental effects of smoking, the tobacco companies first introduced filtered cigarettes, and later low-tar and nicotine cigarettes (otherwise known as "light") and mentholated cigarettes to the public. Tar and nicotine content was tested by using smoking machines, which did not alter the inhalation of tobacco smoke. However, because smokers alter the way they smoke as a result of these modifications, namely, inhaling more deeply in order to make up for the loss in flavor and nicotine dose, in the end it became nothing more than an advertising gimmick, giving customers a false sense of security.

What is meant by "tobacco is a gateway drug"?

A gateway is an entrance to a new and usually unexplored area. With respect to drugs, a gateway drug is one that opens the door to the possibility of using other drugs in addition to that first drug. It is also a drug that one desires to combine with other drugs, such as drinking alcohol or coffee with smoking cigarettes. Tobacco is more often the first drug used by young people, who then, by virtue of their positive experience with it, may enter a sequential process of other drug use and experimentation. These other drugs include alcohol, marijuana, and sometimes "harder" drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. According to the Surgeon General's Report, 12- to 17-year-old teens, who stated that they were smokers, were three times more likely to use alcohol, eight times more likely to smoke marijuana, and twenty-two times more likely to use cocaine, than their nonsmoking peers. Adolescents who smoke are also more likely to engage in other risky behaviors. (More about the Surgeon General's Report is in Question 21.)

In a study that examined tobacco and drug cravings, it was found that there is a connection between tobacco smoking and illicit drug use. There is a correlation between the number of cigarettes that a person smokes and the likelihood he or she will use illegal drugs, suggesting that nicotine and other substances may share similar brain pathways that reinforce the cravings for each drug. The results of teen surveys and research studies demonstrating teen use of cigarettes and other drugs strongly support the idea that cigarettes are a "gateway drug" that can lead to other drug use.

What effects does the Internet have on the tobacco industry and cigarette sales and on teen smoking?

The Internet circumvents four areas of government control over the sale and distribution of tobacco: (1) restricting sales to minors; (2) raising taxes to dissuade use and apply additional revenue to the healthcare costs of continued use; restriction of advertising, marketing, and promotion; and fostering public disapproval of the tobacco industry and its products. The Internet has become a major player in reversing all four areas both in the United States and around the world. Recently, cigarette sales have increased because people of all ages have easy access to cheaper tobacco products via the Internet. A quick Google search finds close to 700,000 cigarette Web sites that offer tax-free cigarettes to anyone, regardless of age, with access to a computer and electronic payment.

Internet sales to minors have increased because of the ability of teenagers to buy cheap cigarettes from Web sites without federal or state oversight. A recent survey found that students under 18 were able to buy cigarettes (including Marlboro Lights and Bidis) by the carton online without either being asked their age or requiring proof of their age. Many Internet Web sites that sell different types of tobacco products do not list age restrictions, and few of them have the Surgeon General's warning labels. Only one Web site used 21 years as the required age to buy cigarettes. Verification of age is by self-report ( A study commissioned by Hot Wired, the online version of Hot Wired magazine, found that 37% of Americans who buy cigarettes online are younger than 18 years of age. Only a few sites use a more rigorous approach such as verifying the buyer's age by a driver's license number or a photo ID.

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