Reasons for not making a safer cigarette
A secret and confidential letter written to a scientist who suggested that the British American Tobacco Company (BAT) should try and make a safer cigarette indicates reasons why the tobacco industry has been reluctant to design a "safer cigarette." This is a definitive document outlining the industry's reasons for not making a safer cigarette. Chief among the reasons is that by doing so, the industry's traditional products would then be considered unsafe:
... in attempting to develop a 'safe' cigarette you are, by implication in danger of being interpreted as accepting that the current product is 'unsafe' and this is not a position that I think we should take.
The other reasons are that no matter what they do, they will never be able to appease their critics, and that making a safer cigarette would be too expensive:
... we do not believe that there is a sufficiently high chance of a successful outcome to justify committing the very large scale of resources that would be necessary to pursue the direct by arguably over-simplistic approach which your people are proposing. This is why I cannot support this line or research.
Text from the document
You will remember that when we last met in Montreal we spoke about the approach you believe should be taken in fundamental research to produce improved cigarettes.
I have reviewed the position with my colleagues. Sincere there is such a wide discrepancy between your approach and that of the rest of the Group, I thought that I should write to explain why it is that I cannot support your contention that we should give a higher priority to projects aimed at developing a "safe" cigarette (as perceived by those who claim our current product is "unsafe") by either eliminating, or at least reducing to acceptable levels, all components claimed by our critics to be carcinogenic.
The BAT objective is and should be to make the whole subject of smoking
to the authorities and to the public at large since that is the real challenge facing the industry. Not only do I believe that this is the right objective but I also believe that it is an achievable one....
.....Furthermore, I believe there are other important objections inherent in your approach.
Firstly, your objective is probably inattainable - no matter what can be done in chemical terms (and I believe this to be very limited) there will continue to be strong vocal factions that seek to denigrate the product and they are likely to continue to move the goal posts away from whatever initial target we were able to achieve.
A second practical objection is that in attempting to develop a "safe" cigarettes you are, by implication in danger of being interpreted as accepting that the current product is "unsafe" and this is not a position that I think we should take.
As you can see, there is no disagreement on the importance that we all place on the need for fundamental research leading to results which will have a practical impact on the acceptability of our product.
Where we part company...is that we do not believe that there is a sufficiently high chance of a successful outcome to justify committing the very large scale of resources that would be necessary to pursue the direct but arguably over-simplistic approach which your people are proposing. That is why I cannot support this line of research.
[Underlining emphasis appears in original].
Title [Note from P Sellby to Crawford regarding development of 'safe' cigarette]
Per. Author Sellby, P
Date 19861218 (December 18, 1986)
Collection British American Tobacco
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