Monday, June 21, 2010

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American tobacco expert  "The Insider" shocked by nicotine  levels in New Zealand cigarettes ... 

Former head of research and development for a United States tobacco firm, Dr Jeffrey Wigand is in New Zealand to speak on smoking, the real-life tobacco company whistle blower from the movie The Insider, is shocked to learn of the high levels of nicotine and tar to which New Zealand smokers are exposed.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has brought the American Dr Wigand - portrayed in the 1999 movie by Russell Crowe - to New Zealand to give lectures and to speak to the Maori affairs select committee inquiry into tobacco.

The former head of research and development for a United States tobacco company, Dr Wigand thought someone was playing a prank yesterday when he first glanced at the Herald and saw a graphic showing the high levels of nicotine and tar obtained by the average New Zealand smoker.

"I thought someone was jangling my chain."

New Zealand was highest of eight countries for tar, thought to be a major cause of lung cancer, and second-highest, behind South Africa, for nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco smoke.

The study was conducted by researchers at British American Tobacco (BAT) in Britain, by testing 80,000 filters supplied by smokers in eight countries from their smoked cigarettes.

"Seventeen milligrams is a very high level of tar," said Dr Wigand.

"It approaches the level for non-filtered cigarettes."

"The high nicotine levels are particularly an issue for beginners - children - and for adults in trying to quit."

Dr Wigand, who was sacked in 1993 from Brown & Williamson, part of the BAT group, went on to slam the industry in CBS television interviews which led to the movie.

He was a key witness in anti-tobacco litigation in the US and is a speaker on the industry's practices.

He told the Herald yesterday it was an immoral industry because it harmed and killed consumers when they used its products as intended.

"The mantra in the company I worked for was 'hook 'em young and hook 'em for life'."

He has previously accused Brown & Williamson's head of lying to legislators in stating he believed nicotine was not addictive, and yesterday Dr Wigand dismissed industry assertions that smoking was a matter of adult choice.

Acknowledgements   Martin Johnston

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