Study: Tobacco companies changed design of cigarettes without alerting smokers

June 19, 2009,

As President Obama prepares to sign a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of the tobacco industry, a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers shows that tobacco manufacturers have continually changed the ingredients and the design of their cigarettes over time, even if those changes have exceeded acceptable product variance guidelines. The result, say the researchers, is that consumers who buy the same brand of product are not made aware of how that product has been altered and what effect those alterations might have on their levels of addiction or harm.

"I hope the FDA requires disclosure of any changes made to tobacco products and that the changes are disallowed if shown to increase appeal, addiction and harm," said Greg Connolly, director of the Tobacco Control Research Program at HSPH.

The study appears in the "Online First" section of the Journal of Tobacco Control and will appear in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

For their study, Connolly and lead author Geoffrey Ferris Wayne, an HSPH researcher, studied internal tobacco company documents released following the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. These documents describe significant changes made to commercial products over time, including blend, processing, casing, flavoring and physical design features. For example, new methods were developed to process tobacco, altering the smoke chemistry and the form of nicotine delivery, and the levels of processed tobaccos were regularly adjusted within brands.

Despite the constant innovation of tobacco products, which in many cases have exceeded the levels of acceptable variance established within the tobacco industry, for the most part, these changes were not disclosed to consumers, say the researchers.

"Even incremental changes that occur over a period of years can result in significant design differences. The resulting product may have altered chemistry or delivery, yet the smoker is largely unaware of these changes. This underscores the need for industry transparency and accountability," said Ferris Wayne.

The study builds on earlier research done at HSPH on how products are designed to enhance appeal and addiction. At Senate hearings on the FDA bill last year, Connolly discussed that research, including how tobacco companies have increased nicotine content over time, manipulated menthol and added candy-like flavors to enhance appeal to children.

Until regulators have a system in place for assessing product revisions, Connolly and Ferris Wayne advise that all changes to tobacco products be reported to the FDA and that no changes be allowed until they have been scientifically shown to reduce addiction or harm.

More information: "Regulatory Assessment of Brand Changes in the Commercial Tobacco Product Market," Geoffrey Ferris Wayne, Greg Connolly, Journal of Control, online June 14, 2009. Read the abstract:

Source: Harvard School of Public Health (news : web)

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3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 19, 2009
why not just force them to remove all of the chemicals and roll up only natural tobacco. then people will quit willingly anyways...
3 / 5 (4) Jun 19, 2009
As if every other product on the market doesn't change without informing the buyers? Is the tobacco industry to be held to a standard nobody else follows?
4 / 5 (4) Jun 20, 2009
Graymouser, I think the point of the article was that this product "changed the ingredients and the design of their cigarettes over time, even if those changes have EXCEEDED ACCEPTABLE PRODUCT VARIANCE GUIDLELINES."

Not just that they changed.

1.7 / 5 (3) Jun 20, 2009
Graymouser, I think the point of the article was that this product "changed the ingredients and the design of their cigarettes over time, even if those changes have EXCEEDED ACCEPTABLE PRODUCT VARIANCE GUIDLELINES."

Not just that they changed.


And who, exactly, decides what constitutes, "ACCEPTABLE PRODUCT VARIANCE GUIDLELINES"? Especially for a product that has been widely used for 500 years?

The pertinent information is widely available. In a free society that would be all that is necessary.

GreyMouser is correct. Tell me beer hasn't changed, wildly since the 70's?
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 20, 2009
Who cares? Smokers wants to die anyway.
4.5 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2009
^everyone should because next is a tax on your ice-cream, rib-eyes, milk and soda pop, beer, vodka, and anything they deem you must be protected from with punishing prices. The food police are out now, anyone who indulges in a one-scoop cone will be made a social pariah too and judged by whats you bought in the grocery store and how often. Meanwhile, your cereal grains are imported from overseas and tainted with industrial chemical-melamine to foil protein content tests. These in turn are fed to animals, it remains in their products of eggs and milk. That chemical, that one lack of oversight, challenges kidneys in a major way, particularly in the young and elderly.

The FDA failed its mission but are now being rewarded with more responsibilities. Its not about cigarettes, its that they are impotent to monitor the safety and standards in the pharmaceutical industry whose products are either made overseas without standards/oversight or the ingredients are imported without standards/oversight.

60-80% of our fruits and vegetables are imported now, according to the 2009 GAO report. Medium and small scale farmers cannot compete and are losing it all to this globalization of everything. Apple growers in Washington state are disappearing.

The incentives now in attaching food production to fuel production means we rely more on importation for our food sources instead of producing on our own soil as growing corn for ethanol is far more rewarding.

Everyone better get used to a new invasion of your private lives in exchange for health care access. BC/BS already spending money to provide patient 'guidance' in leading a healthy lifestyle while they suspend coverage of people who become seriously and critically ill. We're on our own.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 20, 2009
Oh and one more thing, what about the addition of high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener in food products everywhere! What about the use of particular chemical sweeteners with short self life and change over time. What about that benzoate as a preservative in foods and drinks to foil mold growth that converts to that nice carcinogen in the body, benzene?

I guess the FDA et. al. think we aren't paying attention.
5 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2009
Forget it... the FDA will never impose any real restrictions on the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry has deep pockets and the FDA's hand is firmly planted in said pocket.

To the earlier comment, "Who cares? Smokers wants to die anyway."
Agreed - people should have the freedom to make that personal choice. The problem is second-hand smoke. I think the tobacco industry should be required to formulate cigarettes without harmful second-hand smoke. Then they could be free to add heroin to the cigarettes after that and nobody should care.
3 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2009
Is the tobacco industry to be held to a standard nobody else follows?

Does nobody else produce inevitably-lethal products?

Does nobody else produce highly (deliberately) addictive products?

Does nobody else produce products which directly damage others besides the user?

If they are held to the same standards as those who grow apples or those who manufacture glass, that is woefully inadequate, so needs to be changed.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 20, 2009
Just ban the stuff already. It's noxious, addictive and lethal and should never have been allowed to be marketed in the first place.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 20, 2009
LuckyBrandon, (first post) I don't understand your post. The article did not specify that any chemicals were added to the cigarettes, just that the smoke chemistry changed significantly - that is, the chemicals produced by burning the cigarette changed because of different ingredients:
blend, processing, casing, flavoring and physical design features. For example, new methods were developed to process tobacco, altering the smoke chemistry and the form of nicotine delivery

"Processing" tobacco might imply adding chemicals but it could also indicate other things such as the way it was washed or how it was dried - even different natural ingredients might have been added, all of which could significantly alter the chemicals produced when smoking.

The addictive part of tobacco is the nicotine - natural tobacco still has this material and even when smoking natural tobacco in simple rolling paper, quitting will still be difficult for most people
5 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2009
As a smoker i have to say this: cigarettes are by far the worst thing that has ever happened to tobacco.
3.5 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2009
The only drug that does nothing but treat it's own withdrawal. Smokers only feel normal after their last smoke. Natural tobacco is still dirt when you burn it, full of tar and crud, and smokers gratefully coat their lungs with it because withdrawal is so miserable for so long. Smoking mothers cause brain damage and nerve problems in their unborn babies as well as withdrawal and crib death which is why it's illegal in Britain. Smokers ruin innocent lives.
3 / 5 (1) Jun 20, 2009
The tobacco companies are mass murderers and should be prosecuted to the FULL extent of the law, while giving back the billions of dollars they have stolen from their unwitting victims.
4.5 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2009
Um, I remember when a mere waft of nicotine spray made a shower of bugs fall out of our fruit trees.

Of course, we could not eat the windfalls, and we dared not spray within a month of picking...

One thing was for sure-- Even masked and gloved, we always got a nicotine hit and dump. We were never, ever tempted to smoke...
not rated yet Jun 20, 2009
The tobacco companies are mass murderers and should be prosecuted to the FULL extent of the law, while giving back the billions of dollars they have stolen from their unwitting victims.

The thing that bothers me about these kinds of statements is that there is a lot of other things people die from, guns for example, should every gun maker be thrown in jail for mass murder? (that would actually make more sense than the tobacco people) or alcohol, or people that just eat way too much and get diabetes, or die of a heart attack from eating hohos and drink ten two liter bottles of pepsi everyday.
Obviously smoking anything is a dumb idea and you have a nice big chance of it leading to your death.
But so is skydiving. Or cars!! Cars kill you, and the people around you way faster than smoking does.
If every single thing was safe and healthy, life would be boring, or we would just have an even worse population problem. I think they should outlaw having sixteen kids before they outlaw smoking. But that's a whole other subject.
Anyway, if your pregnant and you smoke you're more of an idiot than a normal smoker, by far, and it's your own dumb fault the baby is messed up, not the tobacco industry.
Besides, you can't smoke in pretty much any public place anymore, some places you can't smoke while walking down the street, and you can't smoke in bars!! Come on, that's a pretty big victory for you people.
All that being said, I don't think this is a bad thing, they can't make tobacco worse, they can only make it not as bad for you, which probably won't happen so it will most likely just stay the same, or get rid of some of the non essential chemicals that in the end are pointless.
When it really comes down to it, there are way more important things out there to spend energy on thinking about, screw cigarettes. All the major smoking nazis out there put so much time and energy into it, imagine what would happen if they spent that time on things that really matter, or why not spend time and come up with an effective way of getting people to not be addicted. I don't know, but the people that aren't going to smoke won't, the people that do ignore you.
So that's where your problem starts I would say.
not rated yet Jun 20, 2009
Edylc sounds like your mom was a smoker like you. Try to remember how miserable it was as a kid breathing that stench in a closed car, at the dinner table. Ask her if she ever considered if you would be born addicted, or if she looked down at that wailing, quivering little baby that was you and thought your damage was her fault. No parent has the right to do that to a child. Or has she passed on- emphysema, cancer, heart disease? Smoking ends first; crime, gluttony, depression, SIDS, ADHD, autism et al will all drop as a result.
not rated yet Jun 21, 2009
I didn't say it's good to smoke around kids, obviously it's not good to have smoke around little kids. Yes my mom was a smoker but quit before she was going to have a baby and never started again.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2009
Cigarettes are an example of a long con, except that once the public found out, it was too late to do anything about it. Now we get conned in full view of the public eye and there is nothing we can do about it.

Ahh isn't it wonderful to live in a free society.
not rated yet Jun 22, 2009
physpuppy-i asssumed this was common knowledge but maybe not....MANY chemicals are added to tobacco in all cigarettes...whereas cigars utilized natural leaves...if them bastards made any change, you can guarantee it was not to the natural portion of the cigarette, it was to the chemicals...that also entails filter or paper changes, as they change the amount of chemicals.
better explanation?

jimee-they are not mass murderers because we smoke of our own free will. guns kill people, but gun manufacturers are not responsible because people by their product and use it as they will.
now i will say, the purposeful addition of chemicals and such to cigarettes over time to get people addicted, then these changes mentioned here are another example, are inexcuseable.
BUT, it makes business sense you have to amdit....but more along the lines of a crack selling business :)
not rated yet Jun 23, 2009
Irradiated seed, growth hormones, fertilizer with chemicals to promote accelerated mitosis, etc. but nicoteen spray keeps bugs out of vegitables. I still say Indians who smoked peace pipes outlived those who didn't!
not rated yet Jun 26, 2009
SMOKERS- this here explains why you have trouble putting two and two together:
-sounds pretty serious, eh? Especially for babies.
-hey physorg, miss this one?
not rated yet Jun 26, 2009
Instead of testing, why couldn't they just look at the goop inside smokers heads and see the damage? How could you not see something like this? How could you dismiss it? What about migraines?

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