Pubdate: Wed, 28 April 1999
Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star
Author: Tim Harper, Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau


Behind-the-scene experiments revealed in files used for U.S. trial

OTTAWA - Newly released documents have provided what anti-smoking groups say
is the most detailed evidence yet of secret experiments on tobacco additives
and nicotine levels by Canada's leading cigarette manufacturer.

Documents reveal both laboratory and human studies on cigarettes ``spiked''
with up to 45 per cent more nicotine, experiments looking for ways to
deliver higher-impact nicotine, and experiments on ways to make safer
cigarettes with fewer carcinogens.

None of the experiments, over a period from October, 1985, to January, 1994,
were reported to the government and much of the behind-the-scenes work was
being done while tobacco manufacturers downplayed or denied the health risks
associated with their product, anti-smoking advocates say.

There is also evidence of experiments designed to reduce the amount of
second-hand smoke produced by cigarettes at a time when the industry was
minimizing the effect of ambient smoke on non-smokers.

The documents were made public as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought
by the state of Minnesota against cigarette makers.

Under the terms of the Minnesota deal, British American Tobacco, the
controlling shareholder in Canada's largest cigarette manufacturer, Imperial
Tobacco, made documents available to Minnesota state officials.

But they also freed up some 45,000 files totalling 600 million pages which
remained in their depository outside London, England.

``We've never spiked cigarettes,'' said Imperial Tobacco spokesperson Michel
Descoteaux. ``We have never provided a finished product that was spiked. We
have denied this claim over and over to the government and the media.''

In 1995, Health Canada exonerated the tobacco industry when it probed
whether it spiked the level of cigarettes on the market.

Descoteaux reserved comment on the other documents until he could study

Imasco has about 70 per cent of the Canadian cigarette market, largely under
their popular Player's and du Maurier labels.

Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada released documents to The Star yesterday
and will release more at a press conference in Montreal today.

``The documents show the scope of the research that was being done which was
shared with no one,'' said Cynthia Callard of the anti-smoking agency.

``There was a recognition that cigarettes were disastrously harmful and they
were spending great amounts of time and money trying to do something about
it. At the same time they were secretly trying to make cigarettes safer,
publicly they were refusing to acknowledge the health risks.''

As recently as 1994, Imperial Tobacco was experimenting with ethanol and
acetone on tobacco in a bid to treat it and render it less harmful.

It was also studying the human physiological response to ``nicotine uptake''
by measuring blood pressure measurements of those smoking cigarettes with
more powerful free-base nicotine.

This is not the first time Imasco has been accused of studying ``spiked

Documents released by Garfield Mahood, director of the Non-Smokers' Rights
Association in the spring of 1998 make the same allegations.

Other documents released yesterday provide a strange twist to the battle
between tobacco manufacturers and governments seeking smoking bans 20 years
ago, when the move to outlaw smoking in public was in its infancy.

An analysis provided to BAT argues in favour of an outright ban because
segregated smoking areas are populated by ``scruffy, poorly educated'' types
who reinforce the ``lower-class'' image of smokers.

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