News releases

June 6, 2001


(Ottawa) - Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada has found evidence that 'elastic' cigarettes are widespread in Canada. But it's the tobacco companies, not the cigarettes, that are rubbery.

Imperial Tobacco and other companies have admitted that they conducted research into elasticity of cigarettes from the early 1980's onwards but have asserted in court that they do not deliberately make and market elastic cigarettes.

An elastic cigarette is a cigarette that produces a larger than expected hit of nicotine when the smoker takes a puff. Elasticity means the smoke, rather than the smoker, works harder.

Elastic cigarettes may be more dangerous than non-elastic cigarettes because the elasticity encourages the smoker to take more smoke into their lungs.

With data produced in research previously undertaken by Labstat Inc. in Kitchener, researchers Neil Collishaw and Michael Chaiton at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada applied a tobacco company definition of elasticity to determine if there were any elastic cigarettes on the Canadian market.

The results were staggering. While only 26 of 115 brands of cigarettes are elastic, elastic cigarettes account for two thirds of cigarettes actually sold. 16 of the 20 top selling Canadian cigarette brands were elastic (see graph).

Joe Battaglia recently sued Imperial Tobacco in Ontario Small Claims Court over the misleading claims on his Matinée Extra Mild King Size cigarettes. Joe felt he was misled into believing these cigarettes with a stated tar yield of 4 mg and nicotine yield of 0.4 mg would be less hazardous to his health.

"Our research shows that Joe was right. He was misled. Matinée Extra Mild King Size was one of the most elastic of the 115 brands we studied. It ranked fifth highest in elasticity and among the top 20 in sales," said Neil Collishaw, Research Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

"Joe's cigarettes are highly elastic-meaning that it would be very likely that he would inhale more tar and nicotine than indicated on the package," concluded Mr. Collishaw.

It has long been known that the labels on tobacco packages do not reflect actual nicotine and tar deliveries to the smoker. Smokers will adjust the way they smoke a cigarette in order to get the nicotine they crave. For instance, most smokers take much bigger puffs on cigarettes with published low levels of nicotine. But smokers don't like to have to suck too hard on their cigarettes to get their desired nicotine and will generally not increase their puff by more than about 25%.

Elasticity allows a smoker to get a lot more nicotine from a drag with only a little more effort.

"More bang for your suck" is how researcher Michael Chaiton summed up the effect of elastic cigarettes. Elasticity encourages smokers to draw higher concentrations of the toxins in tobacco smoke into their lungs, with every puff.

With an elastic cigarette, it becomes much easier for the smoker to self-regulate the levels of nicotine. This means that claims of light and mild are essentially meaningless, as smokers will draw from the cigarette the nicotine they need.

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada is a national registered charity based in Ottawa with a membership of physicians from across Canada. PSC conducts research on tobacco-caused disease and promotes effective ways of reducing it.

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for information: Neil Collishaw Research Director 613 - 233 4878 (office), 613 792 -3875 (cell phone)