Pubdate: Mon, 29 May 2000
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000 The Toronto Star
Contact:  One Yonge St., Toronto ON, M5E 1E6
Fax: (416) 869-4322
Author: Tim Harper, Ottawa Bureau


Canadian Firm Explored Cigarettes' Links To Cancer, Released Documents

OTTAWA -- Canada's largest tobacco manufacturer was extensively
studying the cancer-causing potential of its products for years while
publicly maintaining there was no link between cigarettes and cancer,
newly-released documents show.

Imperial Tobacco also experimented with ways to make cigarettes safer
for consumers, but there is no evidence it ever used any of the
technology in the product it marketed, according to the documents.

As recently as 1994, Imperial Tobacco was involved in a project
researching a cigarette which was conventional in look and acceptable
in taste, but lower in carcinogens while reducing sidestream smoke.

Studies done in also conclusively found that cigarettes marketed as
"light, ultra-light" or "mild" were more damaging to smokers because
of the so-called "puff volume," industry jargon for the smoker's
tendency to take deeper drags on lighter cigarettes.

The documents were released by Health Canada and Physicians for a
Smoke-Free Canada as part of a new anti-smoking offensive launched
this week. The documents are among tens of thousands of pages released
from the Guildford, England, repository of Imperial's parent company,
British American Tobacco.

The company documents were unsealed as a part of a landmark legal
settlement between U.S. cigarette makers and the state of Minnesota.

That settlement was one of more than 40 lawsuits between U.S. states
and cigarette makers in which the tobacco companies paid out more than
$250 billion (U.S.).

British American and Imperial used three different tests over 30 years
to study the toxicity of various tobacco blends, including Canadian
blends. Every study found some type of genetic mutation caused by
cigarette smoke.

The most commonly used study was known as the Ames Test in which smoke
condensate was mixed with bacteria. Canadian cigarettes were the least
hazardous of any of the tobacco types studied under the Ames test.

Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council

However, Canadian blends ranked at the top or near the top in toxicity
in the other two studies. In one, known as mouse skin painting, mice
were shaved and smoke condensate was applied to their backs and
studied for two years. The condensate produced tumours on the mice.

In inhalation tests, rats were forced to inhale cigarette smoke and
their respiratory tracts were studied.

The documents released to The Star were published in 1990, a summary
of some 30 years of research.

The documents indicate ventilated cigarettes, which became very
popular in the 1980s, were, in fact, more dangerous to smokers' health.

Public perception was just the opposite.

The tobacco industry in this country has always maintained that it
never marketed "light, extra-light, mild or ultra-mild" cigarettes as
healthier and never made such a claim.

The industry, in fact, has maintained that such brands were
manufactured at the behest of the government. However, it did study
the impact of colour on marketing and it sold its lighter brands in
lighter "cleaner" package colours.

A spokesperson for Imperial, makers of the popular Player's brand,
could not be reached for comment.

The documents were released as a parliamentary committee begins
hearings on Health Minister Allan Rock's proposed new, stark warnings
on cigarette packages. Under the plan, the packages will depict a
cancerous mouth, a diseased lung, even a drooping cigarette indicating
sexual dysfunction.

The Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council has argued it will need
more than the six months given by Health Canada to deal with the
overhaul of the packaging of some 400 brands.

"It can't be done under the government's time constraints unless we
jeopardize company trademarks or do a very poor reproduction of what
the government wants," said council spokesperson Marie-Josee Lapointe.
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MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson