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Ignoring puff counts: another shortcoming of the Federal Trade Commission cigarette testing programme
  1. L T Kozlowski1,
  2. C A Whetzel2,
  3. S D Stellman3,
  4. R J O’Connor4
  1. 1
    Department of Health Behavior, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA
  2. 2
    Department of Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
  3. 3
    Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  4. 4
    Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, USA
  1. Dr Lynn T Kozlowski, Department of Health Behavior, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, 623 Kimball Tower, Buffalo, NY 14214-3079, USA; lk22{at}


Objectives: To examine reasons behind the failure of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to preserve puff count information from standard cigarette testing and to elucidate the importance of puff count to overall tar yields.

Methods: We reviewed industry documents on origins of the FTC test and datasets provided by the Tobacco Institute Testing Laboratory to the tobacco industry and FTC for reporting purposes.

Results: The majority of the tobacco industry argued for “dual reporting” of tar yields—both per cigarette and per puff. Despite a request from the Tobacco Institute in 1967 that puff count information be preserved, documents and recent communications with the FTC indicate that puff number data have not been maintained by the government. In contrast, for the cigarette industry, puff count data are a fundamental and routine part of testing and important to cigarette design. A sample of puff counts for cigarettes tested in 1996 (n = 471) shows that on average 100 mm cigarettes have 18% more puffs taken on them than do 85 mm cigarettes in standard tests (7.66 vs 9.03; p<0.01). The 10th percentile puff count is 6.8 and the 90th percentile is 8.8 for king size; the 10th percentile puff count is 8.2 and the 90th percentile is 10.0 for 100 mm cigarettes, indicating that puff counts can vary substantially among brands.

Conclusions: The FTC has failed to seek or preserve puff count information that the industry finds important. Any standard test of tar and nicotine yields should at minimum preserve puff count information.

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  • Funding: This research was funded by a grant from the US National Cancer Institute (5 R01 CA 095890) and via the Roswell Park Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC; 1 P50 CA111236).

  • Competing interests: None.