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Tob Control 8:433-437 doi:10.1136/tc.8.4.433
  • Industry watch

The low tar lie

  1. NADINE-RAE LEAVELL
  1. Department of Cancer Prevention, Epidemiology & Biostatistics
  2. Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  3. Buffalo, New York 14263
  4. nleavell@sc3103.med.buffalo.edu

      For perhaps the first time in history, the tobacco industry is having its own virulent smoke blown back in its face. Confronted with a continual onslaught of litigation, the nation's tobacco manufacturers are no longer able to cower behind the shelter of public relations and well nourished political connections. The industry's real history is now being told, but not in the sidestepping half truths that have characterised the industry's signature response to critical inquiry. This time, the story is told among millions of pages of once confidential industry documents made public through legal discovery. Rumours have become facts. Telltale is now truth. The tobacco industry is being forced to eat its own words.

      One of the most compelling parts of this new history is the evolution of low tar and low nicotine cigarettes. While the tobacco industry publicly vowed to place the public's health above every other facet of its business, it privately acknowledged its inability to create a safe product. Supported by quotes pulled directly from the industry's own internal documents, the real history is now manifest.

      The late 1950s brought growing internal industry concern and acknowledgement that smoking causes health problems

      “ . . .if we can eliminate or reduce the carcinogenic agent in smoke we will have made real progress.”—1954, Liggett.1

      “Boy, wouldn't it be wonderful if our company was first to produce a cancer free cigarette? What we could do to the competition.”—Mid 1950s Hill & Knowlton (industry legal counsel) quoting an unnamed tobacco company research director.2

      “ . . .the evidence is irrefutable that the companies were aware by 1954 of the early epidemiologic studies and the 1953 Wynder-Graham mouse skin painting study (linking cigarettes and lung cancer).”—late 1980s attorney work product by industry legal counsel Jones, Day Reavis & Pogue for an industry client (possibly B&W).3

      The industry has long known that this could effect profits . . .

      “From a source of …

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