Tobacco head says ideas of addiction have changed

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A smoker’s addiction to nicotine is not the same as addiction to drugs like cocaine, the head of the nation’s largest cigarette company maintained Tuesday during Minnesota’s tobacco trial.
Geoffrey Bible, chairman and chief executive of Philip Morris Cos. Inc., said he has testified before Congress that he believes nicotine is behaviorally but not pharmacologically addictive.
That testimony, he said, was based on information provided to him by the company’s chief scientist, Cathy Ellis, who told him nicotine has “mild pharmacological effects.”
When asked Tuesday what would constitute a “mild pharmacological effect,” Bible replied, “I’ve just taken some Sudafed and I think that’s mild.”
Bible then read a statement outlining his company’s position on addiction:
“We recognize that nicotine, as found in cigarette smoke, has mild pharmacological effects, and that, under some definitions, cigarette smoking is addictive.’ The word addiction’ has been and is currently used differently by different people in different contexts, and the definition of the term has undergone significant changes over the past several decades,” he said.
Philip Morris does not accept definitions of addiction that do not include intoxication and physical withdrawal as important markers, Bible said.
When Michael Ciresi, lead attorney for the state, attempted to question Bible about manipulation of nicotine by adding ammonia to make the smoke less acidic and create a more potent form of nicotine, he said he didn’t understand.
Bible was called as a hostile witness in Minnesota’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota are trying to recover $1.77 billion they say was spent to treat smoking-related illnesses.
They also are seeking punitive damages, claiming the tobacco industry knew about the dangers of smoking for decades and hid that knowledge from the public while manipulating nicotine to hook smokers.
In his second day of testimony, Bible also said he did not agree with statements in a Philip Morris memo written by Barbara Reuter.
“Different people smoke cigarettes for different reasons. But, the primary reason is to deliver nicotine into their bodies,” Reuter said in the undated memo written sometime after Oct. 5, 1992.
Bible said he did not agree with Reuter’s memo.
Nicotine is a physiologically active substance, she wrote, and said similar organic chemicals include quinine, cocaine, atropine and morphine.
“I don’t think she’s qualified to say this,” Bible said. “I don’t think she’s a scientist.”
Reuter’s position with the company was not clear from the document introduced in court. An attorney for the defendants could not immediately say.
Bible said he had “no idea” whether Reuter was correct when she said nicotine reaches the brain eight to 10 seconds after smoke is inhaled into the lungs.