New Studies of Tobacco Industry… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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New Studies of Tobacco Industry Documents Show How Industry Manipulates Products and Underscore Need for FDA Authority over Tobacco

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 12, 2002

Washington, DC — As the tobacco industry rolls out a new generation of so-called 'reduced risk' products, a series of new studies based on internal industry documents and published today in the journal Tobacco Control serve as a timely reminder that the industry's real concern is not to protect the public health but to maximize its own profits. These studies underscore the need for Congress to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration full and meaningful authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products and for the U.S. Department of Justice to aggressively pursue its lawsuit against the industry and not settle for anything short of fundamental change in the industry's harmful manufacturing and marketing practices.

The new studies, the first comprehensive research based on approximately 33 million pages of tobacco industry documents released as part of a settlement agreement between the tobacco industry and the Minnesota attorney general's office, provide important new evidence of the many ways in which the industry has manipulated its products and sought to deceive the public about the harm they cause.

One study finds that the industry not only marketed its deadly and addictive products to kids, but also sought to redesign cigarettes to make them more appealing to potential new customers, especially kids. This study concludes that during the 1980s, the tobacco companies competed in the development of products which were more appealing to younger smokers and which aided in smoking initiation through product changes that made cigarettes more palatable, easier to smoke and more addictive. While previous studies have identified tobacco industry advertising and promotions aimed at youth, this study shows that the tobacco industry considered product design to be an important way of attracting younger smokers. The study focused on RJ Reynolds efforts to redesign its Camel cigarette to compete with Philip Morris' Marlboro, which had become the dominant brand among younger smokers.

A second study finds that the filters used on most cigarettes are defective and contaminated with loose microscopic cellulose filter fibers that can be ingested and inhaled during smoking. If the cigarette's filter included charcoal, the filter tip would be further polluted with carbon particles. Based on industry documents, the study concludes that Philip Morris in particular has known about and concealed the filter contamination problem for 40 years. The study also found no evidence that Philip Morris has conducted toxicology tests to understand the health effects of inhaling or ingesting the fiber contaminants or that the company has sought to implement existing technology that can address the filter contamination problem. The study concludes that 'the tobacco industry has been: (a) derelict in concealing information of filter defects; (b) negligent in implementing technologies available to prevent or reduce the emission of filter elements; and (c) wrongful in not investigating the toxicology and harm associated with defective filters of today's cigarettes that are being marketed worldwide.' As a result, even today we do not know what harm is being caused by smokers' exposure to these contaminants.

A third study adds important evidence showing that the tobacco industry knowingly designed 'light' cigarettes that would produce lower levels of tar when smoked by a machine, but the same amount of tar when actually smoked by a human being. This review of industry documents found that the industry knew that cigarette filter ventilation would result in smokers taking bigger puffs, blocking ventilation holes or smoking more cigarettes to satisfy the body's need for nicotine. As a result, smokers of light cigarettes received the same amount of tar and died as the same rates as the smokers of full-strength cigarettes.

The tobacco industry got away with these harmful manufacturing and marketing practices because they have so successfully opposed meaningful efforts to regulate their deadly and addictive products. As a result, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people every year. Unless Congress grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority to regulate tobacco products and stop the industry's harmful practices, history will repeat itself. Thirty years from now, we will be reading industry documents about the new products being introduced today and discover that the industry's claims of reduced risk are no more true than those they made in the past.