Memorandum by Imperial Tobacco Group PLC|
THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY AND THE HEALTH RISKS
OF SMOKING (TB 13)
IMPERIAL'S PRODUCT MODIFICATION INITIATIVES
30. From the mid 1950s, some scientists
had expressed the view that a reduction in the tar yield of cigarettes
would reduce the reported incidence of lung cancer among cigarette
smokers. However, it was not until after the RCP stated in the
early 1970s that there was evidence that cigarettes with a lower
tar yield "may be less dangerous" that the Government
required the publication of tar yields and established the ISCSH
which recommended a strategy of tar yield reduction. Imperial
and the other UK tobacco companies worked closely with the Government
and the ISCSH in an open and constructive manner to agree and
implement product modifications which achieved reductions in tar
and nicotine yields.
31. By the end of the 1950s Imperial had
begun, as part of its overall research effort, to investigate
the factors which affect tar yields. This work was continued throughout
32. In April 1967, Imperial and the other
UK tobacco companies, through the TRC, sought the views of the
RCP's Committee on Smoking, Atmospheric Pollution and Health on
modifications of cigarettes to reduce tar yields. The Committee
was concerned that components of the smoke other than tar may
be more important and that, although reductions in tar yields
might be beneficial, further research was needed to discover what
effects such reduction in tar yields might have. The Committee
said that information about tar and nicotine yields should only
be made available to researchers for this purpose. The companies
reported this discussion to the Minister of Health who accepted
the Committee's advice.
33. In 1969, the Central Health Services
"Efforts by the tobacco industry to reduce
the tar content of cigarettes or to produce a tobacco substitute
are welcomed; but it cannot be assumed that they will produce
a safer product nor that tipped cigarettes are safer than others.
It is doubtful if anything is to be gained by including on cigarette
packets a warning about the chemical content and possible harmful
effects of cigarettes, like that adopted in the United States;
but the industry should notify a Government Department of the
nicotine and tar content of cigarettes, and of alterations when
changes are made or new types of cigarettes introduced and this
information should be available to research workers."
34. Tar and nicotine yields in brands have
been made available to Government by UK tobacco companies since
35. In 1971, the RCP published its Second
Report on Smoking and Health in which it stated that there was
evidence that cigarettes with a low tar and nicotine yield "may
be less dangerous" and that "the amounts of these in
all marketed brands should be published and a public statement
made on the possible effects on health of smoking them".
This was a change to the view expressed in 1967 by the RCP's Committee.
36. Following the publication of the Second
RCP Report, the Government established the Standing Scientific
Liaison Committee on the Scientific Aspects of Smoking and Health
(known as the "Cohen Committee") with terms of reference
to advise the Secretary of State for Social Services on the scientific
aspects of smoking and health. This Committee was made up of scientists
and doctors appointed by the Department of Health and Social Security
and representatives from each of the main UK tobacco companies,
including Imperial. Specifically, the Committee was asked "to
advise on the significance to health of tar and nicotine yields
of cigarettes and how information on the yields and their significance
to health could best be made available to the public . . . ".
37. The Committee recommended that:
"The tar and nicotine yields
of all important brands of packeted cigarettes sold in the UK
should be published twice a year."
"Analyses should be undertaken
by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist."
"The published figures should
be accompanied by information which will educate the public about
the effects of tar and nicotine and encourage smokers to change
to brands with a lower tar yield. Advice should be sought from
publicity experts on the best method of presenting this."
"The published figures should
be divided into broad groups according to their tar yield and
agreement should be sought with the tobacco manufacturers for
a description of these groups to be indicated on packets of all
brands included in the table."
38. The Government accepted these recommendations
and, in 1972, announced its intention to publish tables of tar
and nicotine yields. This required a standardised procedure to
enable tar and nicotine yields of different cigarettes to be measured
in different laboratories and to produce consistent results. This,
in turn, required:
a standardised procedure for gathering
samples of each brand of cigarettes;
standardised smoking equipment;
an agreed protocol for measuring
tar and nicotine yields; and
agreed statistical procedures for
analysing the results.
39. The Laboratory of the Government Chemist
("LGC") and the UK tobacco companies co-operated to
develop a protocol to meet these requirements. The resulting protocol
has enabled the LGC to measure and report tar and nicotine yields
for major brands in what are known as the "league tables".
The LGC and the UK tobacco companies regularly review and update
the operation of the protocol and discuss the results produced.
40. From April 1973, the league tables were
published by the Department of Health and Social Security. These
league tables were produced by the LGC and ranked brands according
to tar and nicotine yields using standardised measurements and
techniques. These standardised procedures and the resulting league
tables were never claimed to quantify the yield of a cigarette
for an individual smoker. Rather, they were designed to provide
consumers with a basis for comparison between brands or "to
rank brands and allow comparison of one with another under a standard
41. The league tables were readily available
to consumers and retailers in poster and leaflet form, were published
by newspapers and were given wide publicity by the Health Education
Council and others.
42. All press and poster advertising from
September 1974 and all cigarette packs from late 1975 stated the
particular brand's tar yield group. The tar groups were:
| "Low tar"
||||less than 10mg|
| "Low to middle tar"||
| "Middle tar"||
| "Middle to high tar"||
| "High tar"||
||29mg and over.|
43. In 1973, the Government established the ISCSH "to
provide unbiased and objective advice to health ministers (who
appointed the members) and, where appropriate, to the tobacco
companies, on the health aspects of smoking tobacco".
Its terms of reference were:
"To advise on the scientific aspects of matters covering
smoking and health, in particular: . . .
(b) to review the research into less dangerous smoking
and to consider whether further such research, including clinical
trials and epidemiological studies, needs to be carried out; and
(c) to advise on the validity of research results and
of systems of testing the health effects of tobacco and tobacco
substitutes and on their predictive value to human health."
44. From its inception, there were regular meetings between
its Chairman (initially Dr R B Hunter who later became Lord Hunter
of Newington and then Dr Peter Froggatt) and the TAC. There were
also regular discussions held between the Chief Scientific Adviser
to the ISCSH, Dr F A Fairweather, and Imperial. Topics discussed
at these meetings included product design, reduction of tar and
nicotine yields, smoking behaviour and NSM.
45. The strategy recommended by the ISCSH, adopted by
the Government and supported by Imperial and other UK tobacco
companies in a series of voluntary agreements, was to continue
to reduce tar yields of cigarettes (in what came to be known as
"the product modification programme") and to identify
the tar yield group on the packet, thereby providing consumers
with a choice between products.
46. The actions of Imperial and the other UK tobacco
companies were recognised by Dr Hunter in a paper presented to
the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, on 21 April 1976,
when he said:
"In justice it has to be recognised that over the last
decade there has been substantial voluntary reductions by the
industry of the tar and nicotine levelsthe introduction
of filters and ventilated paper. It may be that it was commercial
competition and the desire to improve the safety image which produced
thisbut it was not legislation. It was a voluntary effort."
47. In March 1977, Imperial and the other UK tobacco
companies entered into a voluntary agreement with Government under
which they agreed not to introduce new brands of cigarettes with
a tar yield greater than 22mg and not to raise existing tar yields
above this level (ie no more new "middle to high tar"
or "high tar" brands).
48. In the Second Report of the ISCSH, the Committee
said that strenuous efforts should continue to be made to develop
"lower risk" cigarettes for those smokers who wanted
to continue smoking. It acknowledged that "Notable progress
has been made by the tobacco industry over the past decade to
reduce tar yields . . .".
49. In a letter to the Secretary of State in December
1979, Lord Hunter said "My Committee and I attach great importance
. . . to the need to secure reduction in tar yields". Achievement
of this would depend on Government and industry working together,
and he added "it will be necessary to have a constant dialogue
between the scientists in industry and those who serve on my Committee".
50. Imperial and the other UK tobacco companies agreed
with the Government to ensure that no "high tar" brands
appeared in the tar tables after 31 March 1979. Between 1973 and
1979 the number of Imperial cigarette brands tested by the LGC
in the "high tar" category decreased from four to none.
In the "middle to high tar" category, the number of
Imperial cigarette brands decreased from seven to one. On the
other hand, "low tar" category Imperial cigarette brands
increased from six to 11. By 1980, the average sales weighted
tar yield of cigarettes sold in the UK had been reduced to approximately
51. In 1980, Imperial and the other UK tobacco companies
voluntarily agreed with Government to reduce sales weighted average
tar yields to approximately 15mg by 31 December 1983. This represented
a similar percentage reduction (12 per cent) to that achieved
between 1972 and 1979. Progress in tar yield reduction was to
be reviewed annually with the ISCSH and the DHSS. The UK tobacco
companies also agreed to introduce new brands only in the two
lower tar yield categories and that no new brand would be introduced
giving a tar yield exceeding the sales weighted average of the
"middle tar" group.
52. In June 1983, when representatives of the UK tobacco
companies met with the ISCSH to discuss their Third Report, Dr
Froggatt congratulated the industy on "achievements so far"
and said that he was "pleased to say that we maintain a fruitful
working relationship with the industry and derive great benefit
from our continuing discussions with the industry as a whole and
with individual companies".
53. In 1983, the ISCSH in its Third Report noted that:
"With the reduction in tar yields, the numbers of
cigarette brands appearing in each of the tar groups defined by
the Government have become very unequal with the greatest number
of brands now appearing in the Middle Tar group. We recommend
that the definition of tar groups be reconsidered".
54. In 1984, a further voluntary agreement was entered
into with the Government under which Imperial and the other UK
tobacco companies agreed to adopt a revised tar group structure
to take effect from 1 January 1985. They also agreed to set a
sales weighted average tar yield target of 13 mg by December 1987
and not to introduce new brands with tar yields above the sales
weighted average for the "low to middle" and "middle
tar" bands. The revised tar yield group structure, which
resulted in the virtual elimination of the original two highest
tar yield groups, was:
|"Low tar"|| Less than 10mg
|"Low to middle tar"|| 10mg-15mg
|"Middle tar"|| 15mg-18mg
|"High tar"|| 18mg and above
55. Both Imperial and the ISCSH recognised that the rates
of reduction in tar and nicotine yields had to take account of
what was acceptable to consumers.
56. In its Second Report, the ISCSH observed that:
"There is a limit to how much tar yields can be reduced
without rendering cigarettes unacceptable to the smoker".
57. By its Third Report in 1983,
". . . the Committee realised that it would be impossible
to follow the same path of the tar reduction indefinitely because
of consumer resistance . . . . [A]lthough tar and nicotine yields
of new brands were subject to an agreed ceiling, smokers were
free to switch to existing higher yielding brands if they found
their current one unacceptable."
58. The reduction of sales weighted average tar yield
was a complex task which could not be instantly achieved. Imperial
contributed to the reduction through a range of measures including
the application of product modification technologies and the use
of marketing techniques outlined in successive voluntary agreements
with the Government, such as differential advertising of new low
tar yield brands.
59. Product modification included the development of
increasingly efficient filters, more porous and faster burning
cigarette papers, tobacco blend selection and ventilated tippings.
A combination of these were used to achieve gradual reductions
in tar yields for both Imperial's existing brands and new low
tar yield brands. For example, the tar yield of Imperial's Embassy
Filter brand was reduced from 20mg in 1972 to 11mg in 1998. In
parallel, Imperial has launched at least 24 new low tar yield
brands since 1972. Overall, UK sales weighted average tar yields
have fallen from 20.8mg in 1972 to 10.28mg in 1997. In general,
nicotine yields have fallen in line with tar yields.
60. The EC has pursued a similar strategy by requiring
Member States to enact legislation requiring reductions in tar
yields. From 1 January 1992, the Tobacco Products Labelling (Safety)
Regulations 1991 required tar and nicotine yields to be printed
on all packets of cigarettes. Subsequently, the Cigarettes (Maximum
Tar Yield) (Safety) Regulations 1992 came into force. These enacted
EC Directive 90/239/EEC which limited tar yields in the Member
States and adopted testing methods which were essentially those
which were already employed in the UK. Specifically, it provided
for a maximum tar yield of 15mg until 1 January 1998 and 12mg
after that date.
61. Writing in 1996, Robert Waller (Department of Health)
and Sir Peter Froggatt said:
"the 1980 Agreement specified a SWAT [Sales Weighted
Average Tar] target of 15mg/cigarette by the end of 1983which
was completely metand of "approximately" 13mg/cigarette
by the end of 1987which was nearly met. This policy was
fortified by re-defining tar bands, by restricting tar yields
of new brands to 13mg and setting progressively reducing tar limits
for existing brands. This latter method has become the major thrust
of product modifications in the 1990s as regulatory controls implementing
EU Directives replace, in the UK, the voluntary agreements and
bring the other EU countries under regulation based on this cornerstone
of UK practice. Currently, there is an upper limit of brand tar
yield of 15mg/cigarette, set to become 12mg by the end of 1997,
though with some derogation for one member state. The UK is among
the leaders with a SWAT now of only some 11mg/cigarette."
62. As a result, prior to the 1992 and 1998 effective
dates, Imperial had to make only minor adjustments to its non-filter
cigarettes to comply with these new regulations. The UK is now
amongst the countries in the EU with the lowest sales weighted
average tar yield.
63. In parallel to its other product modification work,
Imperial made a massive investment in developing, manufacturing
and marketing a tobacco substitute.
64. Imperial started research into tobacco substitutes
in the mid 1960s and in 1965 entered into a joint venture with
Imperial Chemical Industries ("ICI") to develop a smoking
material capable of wholly or partially replacing tobacco in smoking
65. NSM, which was the product that was eventually developed,
was an unflavoured, nicotine free, smoking material intended for
use in existing cigarette manufacturing machinery to replace a
proportion of the tobacco in cigarettes. NSM consisted of a combustible
baselargely modified cellulose derived from wood-pulpand
inert inorganic filler materials. (Cellulose, which is present
in all plants, is a major constituent of tobacco.) The yield of
tar from NSM was reduced by combining heat treated cellulose with
a relatively high proportion of incombustible inert inorganic
66. Comprehensive chemical and biological testing of
NSM was undertaken from the late 1960s through the mid 1970s.
The work was largely carried out at the laboratories of ICI, Imperial
and Huntingdon Research Centre. The results of the research, which
covered both smoke from the pure substitute and smoke from blends
of NSM with tobacco, were reported to Government, independent
experts and the ISCSH.
67. In 1975, the ISCSH published its First Report in
which it set out guidelines for the testing of cigarettes containing
substitutes. The Report indicated that the Committee would raise
no objection to the marketing of cigarettes containing tobacco
(i) the results of certain smoke chemistry, biological
and clinical tests had been examined by the Committee and regarded
as satisfactory; and
(ii) the tobacco companies arranged long term studies
to monitor the health of people smoking the product and reported
periodically to the Committee on these studies.
68. Imperial committed substantial resources to meeting
the ISCSH's requirements but it was not until April 1977 that
the Committee gave tobacco substitutes limited endorsement stating
that they "are certainly no worse than tobacco and there
is some evidence that they will make smoking cigarettes containing
69. On 1 July 1977, six brands of cigarettes containing
25 per cent NSM and 75 per cent natural tobacco were launched
by Imperial. However, there proved to be a lack of consumer demand
for cigarettes containing NSM and they were subsequently removed
from the market. Their failure can be attributed to a number of
The Government refused to reduce the duties levied
on products containing NSM, and as a result there was no price
advantage when compared with conventional cigarettes;
Sale of cigarettes containing substitutes were
adversely affected by Government-sponsored Health Education Council's
Cigarette smokers preferred conventional cigarettes.
70. It is estimated that between the period 1966 to 1977
Imperial committed approximately £22 million to the research,
development and production of tobacco substitutes.
71. Imperial has always acted responsibly in the marketing
of its products. Its policy since the early 1950s has been not
to make any health claims for its products. Imperial has not marketed
its products on the basis that modifications it has made have
brought health benefits or have resulted in a "safer"
72. In 1962, Imperial and the other UK tobacco companies
voluntarily agreed to an Independent Television Code of Advertising
Standards ("ITCAS") which classified as unacceptable
advertisements that greatly overemphasised the pleasure to be
obtained from cigarettes, advertisements featuring the conventional
heroes of the young, and advertisements appealing to pride or
general manliness. Under the subsequent 1964 Code, cigarette advertisements
were unacceptable if they tended to "state, suggest or imply,
without valid evidence, that it is safer to smoke one brand or
type of cigarette than another". In 1965 ITCAS was extended
to apply to the other advertising media of press, cinema and posters.
73. Under the 1975 British Code of Advertising Practice,
"may claim that it is safer to smoke one brand rather
than another only if the claim can be supported by valid evidence
ie, evidence which has been accepted by the health authorities.
Thus, for example, without such evidence no new filter should
be described in terms which could be construed as implying any
74. Although some scientists had recommended a reduction
in tar yields in the 1950s, there is still a debate over whether
a reduction may be beneficial.
75. From the early 1970s, after the RCP stated that there
was evidence that cigarettes with a lower tar yield "may
be less dangerous", the Government required the publication
of tar and nicotine yields and established the ISCSH which recommended
a strategy of tar yield reduction.
76. Imperial, which had researched the factors affecting
the tar yield of cigarettes during the late 1950s and throughout
the 1960s, has co-operated with both the ISCSH and Government
in the implementation of this strategy and has made enormous efforts
to assist the Government in achieving its objectives of lowering
tar yields in cigarettes. The targets which have been agreed with
Government as part of the product modification programme have
consistently been met by Imperial and the tar and nicotine yield
information made available by Imperial to the consumer has consistently
been confirmed as accurate by the LGC
77. A major aspect of Imperial's commitment was the vast
amount spent on the development of NSM as a tobacco substitute.
78. In the 1990s the EC also pursued a strategy of reducing
tar yields in cigarettes by imposing maximum limits on tar yields
although all but two of Imperial's cigarette brands already fell
within the maximum limits which were initially set by the EC in
79. As can be seen from the graph below, Imperial and
the other UK tobacco companies have achieved a substantial reduction
in tar yields since they were first published in 1973. It has
not, however, marketed its products on the basis that the modifications
it has made have brought health benefits.
80. Imperial continues to improve the existing methods
of tar yield reduction and to develop new methods.
Darrall, LGC, "Science of the Total Environment" 74,
p 263, 1988. Back
C Swann and P Froggatt TPRT; 1996: Preface, page 1. Back
Third Report of the ISCSH 1983, page iv. Back
Fourth Report of the ISCSH 1988, para 6. Back
The British Code of Advertising Practice, 1975 para 4(a) Back