Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes Rising

Study Shows 11% Jump in Cigarettes' Addictive Ingredient, Nicotine, Over 7-Year Period
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 18, 2007 -- Nicotine levels in cigarettes rose 11% from 1998 to 2005, according to a Harvard School of Public Health analysis.

Nicotine is the main addictive ingredient in cigarettes.

The Harvard analysis confirms an earlier report by Massachusetts health officials.

Tobacco industry officials deny there has been a deliberate attempt to manipulate nicotine levels in cigarettes, saying the nicotine in tobacco products fluctuates randomly from year to year.

But the lead author of the Harvard study says the upward trend cannot be explained by random market fluctuations.

“We do agree that there are fluctuations from year to year,” Gregory Connolly, DMD, MPH, tells WebMD. “But when we plotted those fluctuations out, there was a significant increase in nicotine levels on the order of 1.6% per year, or 11% over a seven-year period.”

Expanded Analysis

The report was based on data provided by cigarette manufacturers to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Based on an analysis of the data from 1998 to 2004, Massachusetts health officials reported an upward trend in nicotine levels in cigarettes last August.

That report was strongly criticized by tobacco industry leader Philip Morris USA.

In a news release, company officials argued that the failure to include data from 1997 and 2005 in the original report influenced the findings.

The new analysis, with includes those years, was conducted, in part, to address the criticism, Connolly says.

The Harvard findings confirm a statistically significant upward trend in nicotine levels, as measured in cigarette smoke, between 1997 and 2005.

The increase was seen in all major cigarette types -- including full flavor, light, medium, and ultralight -- and in both mentholated and non-mentholated brands.

Cigarette Makers Respond

In a statement issued today, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds denied that the company has intentionally increased the nicotine in its cigarettes.

R.J. Reynolds makes top-selling brands Camel, Doral, Winston, Kool, and Salem.

“R.J. Reynolds does not have a program to systematically increase the nicotine content or smoke nicotine yields of its products,” said Jeff Gentry, executive vice president of Research and Development for the company.

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
senior man eating a cake
woman reading medicine warnings
depressed young woman
man with arms on table
man cringing and covering ears

WebMD Special Sections