In the 1950s scientific evidence implicating cigarette smoking as a cause of cancer and other diseases began to mount. Internal business records from the companies show that their own scientists accepted this evidence by the late 1950s. However, rather than acknowledge the truth about smoking, cigarette makers chose to present a unified front denying that smoking was harmful to health. They shifted their marketing budgets to reassure the public that they could smoke without concern. New filtered and low tar cigarettes were introduced and quickly began to dominate the market, even though the companies knew that their repeated promise to remove anything harmful in smoke was unachievable.
Philip Morris VP, Helmut Wakeham’s presentation to the Philip Morris Research and Development Committee.
Carcinogens are found in practically every class of compounds in smoke.
The best we can hope for Is to reduce a particularly bad class, i . e., the polynuclear – hydrocarbons, or phenols.
1968 Safe Cigarette and Denial of Current Cigarette Dangers
R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Research Director, Murray Senkus, responds to an invitation to join a National Cancer Institute “less hazardous cigarette” working group program by denying the hazards of current cigarettes.\
1972 If Our Product is Harmful We’ll Stop Making It
James Bowling, Vice President of Philip Morris
The 1964 Report to the Surgeon General contained a brief reference to the effects of hydrogen cyanide on the trachea and lungs and the benefits of the Lark’s charcoal filter. After the report, Liggett contacted medical doctors to bring this reference to their attention without informing them that the reference was based on their own research that they had provided to the Surgeon General’s committee.
Liggett promoted the health benefits of Lark using third party “endorsements” of the charcoal filter. The fact is that the Lark filter did not remove toxins as it reported and its own researchers doubted the health claims made on behalf of Lark.
In the mid 1970s Liggett & Myers initiated Project XA. The goal was a ‘safer’ cigarette and L&M discovered that an additive, palladium nitrate (also used in automotive catalytic converters) produced a lower rate of disease in biological tests.
Project XA was discontinued when Philip Morris allegedly threatened to thwart the marketing of any new so-called ‘safer’ cigarette because such a product posed a danger to P.M.’s best selling conventional cigarettes. Since the palladium cigarette process was patented the other companies had no way of competing with it.
Should L&M have brought a so-called ‘safer’ brand to market P.M. was prepared to enforce the ban on cigarette health claims. Liggett concluded that marketing the palladium cigarette would result in lawsuits based on the company’s implied admission that their conventional cigarettes contained something hazardous.
Fact Cigarettes – Lower Carbon Monoxide
In the mid-1970s Brown & Williamson developed Fact, a cigarette that selectively filtered carbon monoxide. But Fact failed in test markets.
B&W rejected an advertising agency campaign proposal to educate the public about the health hazards of carbon monoxide. B&W deemed the campaign “appalling” and decided not to market Fact at all. B&W chose instead to wait “until the problem of gas becomes public knowledge through government investigation or media coverage.”
Apparently, B&W was worried that identifying carbon monoxide as a health hazard would constitute an admission that conventional cigarettes were hazardous.
Nicotine is Addictive
The cigarette companies long understood the role of nicotine in cigarette design and smoking addiction. When the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report declared that people smoked due to nicotine addiction, public attitudes about smoking began to shift. While attacking the Surgeon General’s Report on nicotine addiction as irresponsible and unscientific, cigarette manufacturers began shifting their R&D efforts to develop alternatives to conventional cigarettes including those with lower levels of nicotine.
Very Low Nicotine Cigarettes