Why Is Smoking Addictive? It’s Probably Not Just Nicotine, Despite What We’ve Been Told For Years

By Peter Sergo

October 24, 2013 / Medical Daily / Auckland, New Zealand – When we think about smoking’s addictive qualities, the culprit that most often comes to mind is the infamous stimulant, nicotine. The plethora of patches and chewing gums available on store shelves that are meant to dull that itch attest to how nicotine is the therapeutic target of choice.

Countering this dogma, though, are researchers in New Zealand who have further verified that nicotine is not the only ingredient in tobacco products that makes kicking a smoking habit an uphill battle.

At this week’s Smokefree Oceania conference in Auckland, New Zealand, Penelope Truman of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) presented a study that showed how rats exhibited a greater willingness to obtain a dose of smoke from non-nicotinic rolling tobacco compared with doses of nicotine and smoke from factory-made cigarettes that contain nicotine.

Truman, along with researchers from Victoria University, gauged the extent that rats were willing to press a lever to obtain a dose of saline that was infused with either just nicotine or a type of tobacco smoke. Because rats showed a significantly higher willingness to go the distance to get a taste of rolling tobacco smoke, the authors concluded that a substance other than nicotine must be getting them hooked.

“[N]on-nicotinic components have a role in tobacco dependence and…some tobacco products have higher abuse liability, irrespective of nicotine levels,” the study authors concluded.