Tob Control 14:64-70 doi:10.1136/tc.2004.009167
  • Research paper

An extremely compensatible cigarette by design: documentary evidence on industry awareness and reactions to the Barclay filter design cheating the tar testing system

  1. L T Kozlowski1,
  2. N A Dreschel1,
  3. S D Stellman2,
  4. J Wilkenfeld3,
  5. E B Weiss1,
  6. M E Goldberg4
  1. 1Department of Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York, USA
  3. 3Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Washington DC, USA
  4. 4Department of Marketing, Pennsylvania State University
  1. Correspondence to:
 Lynn T Kozlowski PhD
 Department of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State, 315 East Health and Human Development, University Park, PA 16802, USA;
  • Received 8 July 2004
  • Accepted 28 October 2004


Background: The Barclay cigarette (Brown & Williamson) was introduced in 1980 in the USA in the most expensive launch in history. In the USA and around the world, Barclay was later determined to have a grooved filter design that was compromised by human smokers in the normal act of smoking, but that was measured as ultra-low tar using the standard tar testing protocol.

Objectives: To evaluate whether Brown & Williamson knew of the compensatability of Barclay during the design process and before it was released; to evaluate initial responses of competing tobacco companies to Barclay, before complaints were made to the Federal Trade Commission in 1981.

Methods: Internet databases of industry documents (Tobacco Documents Online, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Brown & Williamson Litigation discovery website, Guildford and major company websites) were searched using key words, key dates, and targeted searches. Documents related specifically to the development, evaluation and release of the Barclay cigarette and related to the responses by competing tobacco companies were examined.

Results: Documents indicate the manufacturer was aware of Barclay design problems and was planning, before release, to respond to criticism. Competing companies quickly detected the filter groove stratagem and considered developing their own similar filter, but eventually backed off.

Conclusion: The design problems with Barclay were readily understood by cigarette manufacturers, including the maker of Barclay, before official governmental evaluations occurred. Testing involving measured exposures to human smokers may in the end be crucial to identifying problems with novel cigarette designs.


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