A scientist employed by one of the biggest cigarette manufacturers today said nicotine is good for your health.
Group scientific director for British American Tobacco, which makes Benson & Hedges, Dunhill and Lucky Strikes, David O’Reilly has been branded ‘irresponsible’ and accused of telling just part of the story.
He told the Sunday Times Magazine smoking helps a person’s brain work more effectively, adding: ‘It helps with cognition, stimulation and relaxes.’
His controversial claim came just a week after New York University researchers warned smokers of ecigarettes could inhale more nicotine than those who smoke regular cigarettes.
Mr O’Reilly said likened taking a puff from an ecigarette to drinking a cup of coffee, as he claimed the practise was safe.
But the senior molecular biologist has come under fire from health experts, who have accused him of trying to help ‘sell as many cigarettes as possible’.
Professor John Britton, chairman of the Royal College of Physicians tobacco advisory group and professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, said one hit of nicotine can have positive effects on the brain.
But he warned the drug is highly addictive, leaving smokers needing to get their hit to enable their brains to function normally.
‘It is true that in a single use, nicotine probably does improve concentration and hand-eye co-ordination, on a par with what you get from caffeine,’ he said.
‘But it is also a powerfully addictive drug, and there comes a time when you need nicotine just for your brain to function normally.’
A spokesman for BAT, said the company ‘absolutely’ stood by Mr O’Reilly’s statement.
He said Mr O’Reilly had not advised the drug was good for you in the sense of keeping well hydrated.
A spokeswoman for Cancer Research added: ‘ We don’t fully understand the long-term effects of nicotine use.’
The Department of Health website reveals smoking causes more preventable deaths in the UK each year than any other addiction, illness or disease – reaching 80,000 in 2011.