Tobacco corporations have deliberately developed ‘elastic cigarettes’ that yield high tar and nicotine levels when smoked by humans, yet appear to be mild when tested by machines.
This is according to Professor David Hammond from Canada’s University of Waterloo, writing in the latest edition of the health journal, The Lancet.
Basing his research on internal documents from British-American Tobacco (BAT) dating back 30 years, Hammond accused the corporation of ‘exploiting the limitations of the testing protocols’ and ‘intentionally concealing from consumers and regulators the potential toxicity of BAT products’.
According to BAT’s research, smokers switching to milder brands ‘compensate for low-yield cigarettes by smoking them more intensely’, said Hammond.
Thus mild cigarettes tested by machines under ‘standard testing protocols’ showed far lower tar and nicotine yields than those smoked by hard-dragging humans.
Tobacco industry research showed that smokers ‘typically inhale twice the total volume of smoke as the International Standards Organisation smoking machine’.
To ‘maximise this discrepancy’ between machine and human smoking methods, BAT deliberately made more ‘elastic cigarettes’ that yield higher concentrations of tar and nicotine when dragged on harder.
This strategy was outlined by one of BAT’s senior researchers, G Brookes, at a corporation conference as far back as 1984.
‘The challenge (is) to reduce the mainstream nicotine determined by standard smoking
machine measurement while increasing the amount that would actually be absorbed by the smoker,’ Brookes told his colleagues. ‘Ideally it should appear to be no different from a normal cigarette . . . It should also be capable of delivering up to 100% more than its machine delivery.’
A medical consultant to BAT warned that ‘deeply inhaled smoke from low tar delivery cigarettes might be more harmful than uninhaled smoke from high tar cigarettes’.
However, says Hammond, ‘BAT pursued this product strategy despite the health risks to consumers and ethical concerns raised by senior scientists, and paired it with an equally successful marketing campaign that promoted these cigarettes as low-tar alternatives for health-concerned smokers’.
He said current testing cigarettes favoured the tobacco industry and should be discarded in favour of consumer-friendly methods.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang this week lashed out at the tobacco industry for ‘cold-bloodedly’ targeting Africans as ‘replacement users of tobacco products’ as more and more smokers in developed countries quit.
‘The reason that women and young people in Africa are starting to use tobacco because the tobacco industry is harshly targeting them,’ said Tshabalala-Msimang in an address to a World Health Organisation meeting on tobacco control in Geneva.
There has been a rapid increase in smoking among women in South Africa, particularly young coloured women in the Western Cape.
The Minister said that if the current tobacco consumption trends continued, soon 70% of the five million tobacco-related deaths every year would be in developing countries.
‘The tobacco corporations can provide enticing sponsorships and thus promote its deadly products. It can use its representatives in great numbers, and in subtle and sophisticated ways, to attempt to influence health policies, especially in developing countries. And, it can afford expensive legal challenges in countries that are trying, by all means at their disposal, to curb tobacco use,’ said Tshabalala-Msimang.
Countries that are party to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are meeting in Geneva until next Friday (17th Feb) to discuss how best to implement the convention. ‘ Health-e News Service.