The government's main advisory group on drug abuse wants Congress to add a blunt warning of the "addictive" quality of cigarette smoking to the label now reading that smoking is "dangerous to your health."
"One of our aims," said one of the group, "is to let the young people who are starting to smoke more know they can't just stop when they want to. They should know tobacco is a drug they can't kid around with."
There is also greatly increased scientific evidence that cigarettes are both physically and psychologically addictive in the same sense as heroin or morphine, Dr. William Pollin, the government's top drug abuse scientist, said yesterday.
Pollin heads the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse.
The council voted unanimously in May to urge HHS Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris to propose strengthing the cigarette warning ordered by Congress. Dr. Gerald Kleran, head of HHS's Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Administration, sent the recommendation to Surgeon General Julius Richmond July 30, but the news was disclosed only this month in an administration newsletter.
Cigarette smokers, of course, often confess, "I'm addicted," especially those who try to quit again and again.
But it was only late last year National Institution Drug Abuse technical review group felt there was solid enough evidence to establish the fact scientifically.
"Don't forget that it took many years and overwhelming evidence before the surgeon general first said cigarette smoking causes disease," said Dr. Morris Lipton of the University of North Carolina, an advisory council member. "We felt we had to wait until there was evidence of true physical as well as behavorial dependence."
The evidence was set forth in a technical review by a team of scientists headed by Dr. Norman Krasneger. They said it is finally "clear" that cigarette smoking "produces pharmacologic effects" which help cause "compulsive use."
As "evidence of physical dependence" they cited the symptoms that often beset smokers who try to quit; decreases in heart rate and in secretion of some important brain chemicals and a change in brain waves as measured electronically.
The affected would-be quitter, the report said, then may suffer increased "anxiety, irritability and aggressive feelings," as well as sleeplessness and inability to concentrate, as measured by "impairment in performance in psychomotor tests."
"I should know," Lipton said, adding that he has smoked for 45 years and tried to quit several times.
Congress first voted in 1965 to make cigarette packages read: "Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health." In 1970, it voted to ban TV and radio cigarette commercials and to strengthen the label to read: "Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health."
The physiological facts, said the drug abuse institute's review, might support still another conclusion -- that smoking should be reviewed not just as a habit but "as a disease."
Both the latest international classification of disease and the latest American Psychiatric Association diagnostic manual, Pollin said, list "tobacco use disorder," and call it a "drug dependence phenomenon."