Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Tobacco industry consumer research on socially acceptable cigarettes
  1. P M Ling1,
  2. S A Glantz2
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, USA
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Institute for Health Policy Studies, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Pamela M Ling
 MD MPH, Box 1390, 530 Parnassus Avenue, Suite 366, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390, USA;


Objective: To describe tobacco industry consumer research to inform the development of more “socially acceptable” cigarette products since the 1970s.

Methods: Analysis of previously secret tobacco industry documents.

Results: 28 projects to develop more socially acceptable cigarettes were identified from Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, British American Tobacco, and Lorillard tobacco companies. Consumer research and concept testing consistently demonstrated that many smokers feel strong social pressure not to smoke, and this pressure increased with exposure to smoking restrictions. Tobacco companies attempted to develop more socially acceptable cigarettes with less visible sidestream smoke or less odour. When presented in theory, these product concepts were very attractive to important segments of the smoking population. However, almost every product developed was unacceptable in actual product tests or test markets. Smokers reported the complete elimination of secondhand smoke was necessary to satisfy non-smokers. Smokers have also been generally unwilling to sacrifice their own smoking satisfaction for the benefit of others. Many smokers prefer smoke-free environments to cigarettes that produce less secondhand smoke.

Conclusions: Concerns about secondhand smoke and clean indoor air policies have a powerful effect on the social acceptability of smoking. Historically, the tobacco industry has been unable to counter these effects by developing more socially acceptable cigarettes. These data suggest that educating smokers about the health dangers of secondhand smoke and promoting clean indoor air policies has been difficult for the tobacco industry to counter with new products, and that every effort should be made to pursue these strategies.

  • BAT, British American Tobacco
  • FDA, Food and Drug Administration
  • PREPs, potentially reduced exposure products
  • RJR, RJ Reynolds
  • SHS, secondhand smoke
  • consumer research
  • harm reduction
  • smoking restrictions
  • social acceptability
  • marketing

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • This work was supported by National Cancer Institute Grants CA-87472 and CA-61021 and the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute

  • Competing interests: none declared

Linked Articles