Revealed: The Nicotine Fix IIn Experiments a Tobacco Firm 'Spiked' Cigarettes with an Extra Shot of the Addictive Drug, Reports Peter Pringle

By Pringle, Peter | The Independent (London, England), May 24, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Revealed: The Nicotine Fix IIn Experiments a Tobacco Firm 'Spiked' Cigarettes with an Extra Shot of the Addictive Drug, Reports Peter Pringle


Pringle, Peter, The Independent (London, England)


THE TOBACCO manufacturer Gallaher has admitted developing a process to add extra nicotine to cigarettes to keep smokers "satisfied".

In an ingenious method to add nicotine without blending in a higher nicotine leaf, Gallaher sprayed invisible micron-sized dots packed with nicotine on to the inside of cigarette papers. As the dots were exposed to moisture in the tobacco, or to the burning tip of the cigarette, they broke down and released an extra jolt of nicotine.

The process is likely to be explored in court as Gallaher and the other British tobacco giant, Imperial, faceBritain's first group- action lawsuit on behalf of smokers who have developed lung cancer. The 53 smokers claim that the manufacturers have known since the 1960s how to make less dangerous cigarettes, but have failed to do so. Gallaher says it never marketed the cigarettes, that the nicotine dot development was only "experimental", and that it concluded the process "wasn't an appropriate way of using nicotine". But, in the 1980s, Gallaher contracted with a Warrington chemical plant, J D Campbell & Sons Ltd, to produce the nicotine salt used in the micron dot method. According to former employees, Campbell produced about 30 batches containing enough nicotine to make 400 million cigarettes. Gallaher declined to provide production figures, or say what happened to the cigarettes that were made, saying it had never marketed a product with added nicotine. However, it said that the development of the "nicotine additive printing" (NAP) process was in accordance with the Government's belief, in 1983, that smokers of middle-tar cigarettes should be encouraged to move to low-tar products. "Gallaher did a lot of trials and went to great expense," said a former Campbell's employee. Martyn Day, the plaintiffs' lead solicitor in the group action, said: "It is difficult to understand why they were trying to keep nicotine at a certain level if they do not accept that smokers need that level of nicotine to maintain their addiction." Gallaher, like other tobacco companies, says nicotine is not addictive. The NAP method is revealed in a series of Gallaher patents that were filed in Britain and the United States between 1978 and 1987. The nicotine is added, says one of the patents, "in order to improve . . . the satisfaction provided to the smoker". Another, in a similar vein, says the invention is "concerned with the application of additives - and physiological agents such as nicotine - in order to improve, or help to improve, the satisfaction provided to the smoker". "Satisfaction" is the tobacco industry's euphemism for the harsh taste of nicotine in cigarette smoke and the action of nicotine on the brain. In 1994, US government officials discovered American tobacco companies had filed a series of patents for adding nicotine. The companies countered that the existence of the patents did not mean the experiments were put into production, merely that the method was investigated.

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