BAT to launch ‘safe’ cigarette

London, November 7:

British American Tobacco (BAT) played down claims yesterday that it is due to launch a ‘safe’ cigarette brand. The company said that reports that it was developing a new type of cigarette which reduced cancer risk by 90 per cent compared with normal cigarettes were ‘misleading’.

Emily Brand, of BAT, said that the company had a programme of research to look for ways to cut down the harm caused by cigarettes and admitted that there had been trials of a cigarette which used new ‘trionic’ filters to remove more of the thousands of harmful chemicals in smoke. But the trials, carried out in Indianapolis several years ago, did not provide conclusive results.

“We have no way of knowing what the long-term effects of that are going to be,” said Brand, “We don’t know if it is safer or not. We don’t know if this is a product we’re going to bring to market, we don’t know how it’s going to go in consumer trials, we really haven’t got the information available to make decisions on whether or not to launch it, never mind when that launch would take place.”

Trionic filters are made of three sections which interact with different sets of chemicals in cigarette smoke. Combined with a new way of preparing the tobacco which stops the formation of the tobacco-specific carcinogens called nitrosamines, BAT claims that its new cigarettes significantly reduce the amount of toxic chemicals when compared with normal cigarettes. Earlier this year, the tobacco company Phillip Morris also began testing its new Marlboro Ultra Smooth, which has a new carbon filter system. Critics of the so-called safer cigarettes say that if the products are launched, customers might be fooled into thinking they are reducing their risk of cancer or death.

Low-tar cigarettes have been shown to be no safer than ordinary cigarettes because people tend smoke more of them and inhale more deeply.

“We have been through all this before with low tar cigarettes,” said Deborah Arnott, director of Action on Smoking and Health, “By encouraging people to carry on smoking by switching to supposed low tar or safer brands hundreds of thousands more people have died. There is no way of significantly reducing the harm of smoking.”

Reports that BAT’s new cigarette might cut the risk of cancer by 90 per cent were also dismissed by Brand. “If you burn anything and suck that smoke down into your lungs, there are so many different chemical reactions happening there, we don’t really understand the biological mechanisms of how the lungs deal with that.” She said that the 90 per cent reduction in risk referred to research comparing a different product made by BAT —bags of oral tobacco sold in Sweden and South Africa — with a cigarette.

“In terms of global launch brands or products that we can put hand on heart and say that this is safer, we just don’t have that,” said Brand.