cigarette is best described as a nicotine delivery device (Smoker
Compensation Study, 464562830). Smokers smoke for
As a nicotine delivery device, the
quality of a cigarette can be measured by how effectively it delivers
nicotine to the smoker. Many factors influence the delivery of
nicotine. The type of leaf, the packing density of tobacco, the type
of paper, the diameter of the cigarette, and the pH of the smoke are just
a few of the variables that change the delivery (Smoke
Dose Nicotine, 80192105).
While some of the
nicotine delivery is determined by the design of the cigarette, the smoker
can influence the nicotine delivery.
The quantities of
tar and nicotine listed on tobacco package are derived from tests outlined
by the International Standards Organization (ISO). ISO testing does
not reflect how people actually smoke: “No smoker has yet been observed
who smokes with the same pattern as a[n] [ISO] smoking machine.” Smoker
Compensation Study, 464562830).
The smoker can,
consciously or unconsciously, control the time taken in between puffs
(puff interval or frequency), the depth of inhalation of smoke, the
duration of the puff, and the amount of smoke in a puff (puff volume) (The
BAT Stance on Compensation, 89290242). The smoker can also block
the ventilation holes in the filter with his lips or fingers, which
The smoker can alter
significantly the delivery of cigarettes as each control changes the
chemistry. For instance, when a larger puff is taken, (an increase
in puff volume), the following occurs with cigarettes:
increase of smoke
transport from coal to mouth end.
of the smoke formation and transfer
of the burning velocity
of the dilution processes (Schneider,
smoker can use the controls to regulate the amount of nicotine delivered
from a cigarette. Too little nicotine and the smoker is unsatisfied,
too much and the excess of nicotine can make the smoker feel sick.
When the smoker self-regulates the amount of nicotine he/she is receiving,
then the smoker is “compensating.” In Germany, when price was raised
in the 1980’s, the tobacco companies found that compensation of
cigarettes increased as smokers made the most of the nicotine of each
Behaviour Marketing Conference, 53600018 )
on average, require around 0.9 mg of nicotine a cigarette. Overall,
this means that many cigarette smokers will compensate down, especially
those who smoke regular strength cigarettes. While 30% of smokers do
not compensate at all, smokers of light and mild cigarettes are likely to
compensate up (Nicotine
Conference, 100535068). However, there are big differences
between the different puffs on a cigarette. Early puffs are larger
and are where the smoker obtains most of the nicotine. For later
puffs, the puff volume is reduced substantially and the smoke inhales less
perceived satisfaction is determined by the tar to nicotine ratio (t/n
ratio), which is found by dividing the tar by the nicotine. One of the
difficulties in reducing tar and nicotine level is that the tar to
nicotine ratio is often increased in the process, which leads to a smaller
of Changing Puff Volume on Tar Nicotine Ratio, 570267748). This
makes low delivery cigarettes less attractive to many smokers.
“bonus” for a low t/n ratio is that the pH of the smoke will increase.
A higher pH means that nicotine will be more easily available to the
smoke. Thus, a cigarette with a low t/n ratio will deliver a bigger
“kick” than a cigarette with the same nicotine content, but a higher
t/n ratio (Correlation
of pH with Impact and Sales, 2041197305). Consequently, a “low
delivery” cigarette will have the impact as a regular strength cigarette
if it has a low t/n ratio.
tobacco companies have researched the different methods with which people
smoke for more than 30 years. Imperial Tobacco and other tobacco companies
have known since the early 1970’s that smokers will compensate for
nicotine in lower delivery cigarette (Frieri
Smoking Machine, 650007425). That is, a smoker will
smoke a low nicotine cigarette harder, increasing the puff volume, in
order to obtain more nicotine from it. In general, smokers, however,
do not like to exceed more than a 25% increase in puff volume and do not
increase their puff when it becomes too much effort (Frieri
Smoking Machine 2 , 650007456). As the puff volume increases,
the pressure required to take the drag also increases. This means that
there is a natural limit to the ability to compensate by taking a bigger
cigarettes overcome this problem as a small increase in puff volume
produces a larger than expected hit of nicotine. Elasticity makes the
smoke, rather than the smoker, work harder.
is a measure of increase in deliveries to the smoker when a larger puff is
taken: “Elasticity is the amount of smoke a smoker can take out of a
570252204). Elasticity has been applied to nicotine, tar, total
particulate matter, and tar/nicotine ratio.
has been a major goal of tobacco companies to produce a cigarette with
relatively low ISO numbers, high elasticity, and low t/n ratio.
“From a research and product development viewpoint the proposition of
designing a cigarette, of high taste to tar ratio [i.e. high n/t ratio or
low t/n ratio], which responds positively to human smoking behaviour [i.e.
elasticity and compensation] has been agreed to be acceptable. This
is necessary if we are to explore and understand what consumers are
seeking from cigarettes they buy.” (The
BAT Stance on Compensation, 89290241)
the files released by the tobacco companies as a result of litigation in
the U.S.A., Imperial tobacco, the makers of the largest selling cigarette
brands in the Canada described a working formula for elasticity in a 1994
research report. The report described elasticity in this way “If
the tar delivery increases in direct proportion to the increase in puff
volume, the product is inelastic (i.e. elasticity = 1), while if tar
delivery increases faster than puff volume, elasticity > 1” (ITL
Progress Report, 402415194). In other words, by increasing the puff
volume, the smoker gets a greater than expected amount of nicotine, tar or
any other chemical present in the smoke.
= ∆ delivery / ∆
Tobacco and the other tobacco companies, however, have denied that they
ever used their knowledge to deliberately make and market elastic
2001, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada undertook to investigate if there
were elastic cigarettes in the Canadian market place and if so, what was
the extent of their market share.
volumes, nicotine and tar deliveries were obtained from the 1996 report
“Determination of Cigarette Yields under Realistic Conditions” by W.S.
Rickert from Labstat Inc.
volumes of 44 ml and 56 ml were chosen in conjunction with the Labstat
documents as being the level of normal and intense smoking. Other
than puff volumes, all other variables were held constant.
are a number of methods used to calculate elasticity. BAT used a
percent change of the substance from a lower volume to a higher.
Elasticity used here is one used by Brown and Williamson, a BAT
subsidiary, which uses a definition of normalized elasticity that allows
for better comparisons across brands. (Gonterman,
= (N2/P2) x (P1/N1) x V1/V2
= puff volume of 44 ml
= puff volume of 56 ml
= delivery in mg at 44 ml
= delivery in mg at 56 ml
= number of puffs at 44 ml
= number of puffs at 56 ml
cigarette that has an elasticity of over 1.00 is said to be elastic.
A number above 1 indicates that the increase of nicotine (or other
chemical of interest) is proportionally greater than the change in the
definitions of elasticity were tested and produced similar results.
data were taken for the year 1996 to match with the same cigarettes
Of 115 Canadian brands tested, there were 26 brands with an elasticity
greater than 1.00 (22.6%). But elastic cigarettes account for
two-thirds (67%) of sales, a total of 31 billion cigarettes a year.
elastic cigarettes have median sales of about 728 million cigarettes per
brand. Non-elastic cigarettes have median sales of 102 million.
of the top 20 selling cigarette brands, which account for 61% of the
market, are elastic.
of the 20 least popular cigarette brands are elastic.
of Imperial Tobacco cigarette brands are elastic; only 24% of the brands
produced RBH are elastic and only 8% by JTI-MacDonald. At 70%, Imperial
has a commanding lead in market share of the Canadian cigarette market.
14 of the 20 top selling brands are Imperial’s. All but one of
them are elastic.
Table of Results)
In 1966, tobacco
company scientists noted that nicotine delivery was not greatly affected
by increases in puff volume, while tar was increased (The
Effect of Change in Puff Volume on Smoke Chemistry, 570512247).
In other words, in the average cigarette, tar levels should
increase faster than the nicotine levels with an increase in puff volume.
This means that the t/n ratio increases and a big drag means a less
in the top selling brands of 1996, the reverse occurs.
Nicotine increases at a faster rate than tar deliveries.
Thus, a bigger drag on the cigarette will lead to a lower t/n ratio
and a “better smoke”. Cathy McBride, a scientist at Imperial Tobacco, reported that
smokers were switching almost exclusively to cigarettes with low t/n ratio
cigarettes means that the smoke works harder for the smoker, making it
easier to attain and maintain appropriate levels of nicotine.
Also, when combined with low tar elasticity, cigarettes with high
nicotine elasticity lead to a decrease in tar/nicotine ratio and more
satisfying cigarette. These
types of cigarettes represent the goal of millions of dollars of tobacco
American Tobacco (BAT) and its Canadian, American, and German subsidiaries
were aware of design modifications that would affect elasticity (Elasticity
Definitions, 575251615) (The
BAT Stance on Compensation, 89290244).
Elasticity is a summary statistic and a high elasticity could
emerge from a series of cigarette design modifications.
Elastic cigarettes could also result from test and focus groups
choosing cigarettes that happen to be elastic, rather than a purposeful
design. However, BAT and its
subsidiary companies were aware of design modifications to produce elastic
cigarettes. In Canada, over
half of Imperial Tobacco brands are elastic compared to only a quarter of
brands for the other Canadian companies
does not “cause” a cigarette to sell well.
What the data indicates is that to be successful in Canada, a
cigarette brand needs to be an effective nicotine delivery device.
Elasticity is a good summary measure of the effectiveness of nicotine
is a good test country for comparing sales data to elasticity because of
the general uniformity in the tobacco market.
Most Canadian cigarettes do not have flavourings other than menthol
and most use the same type of tobacco (Virginia Flue-Cured).
Also, price is regulated in Canada and most cigarettes are sold for
the same price. This reduced
the variables in the experiment.
conclusion, while only 23% of cigarettes brands are elastic, those brands
sell very well: 67% of all cigarettes sold are elastic.
16 of the 20 top-selling cigarette brands are elastic.
is necessary for high efficiency in the delivery and regulation of
makes becoming and staying addicted to nicotine much easier.
elastic cigarette encourages increasing puff volume to decrease the t/n
ratio; the smoker then draws a larger amount of smoke into their lungs
than they would have otherwise which further increases the risk of
1983, BAT decided that its stance on compensation was that it was a matter
of adult choice (The
BAT Stance on Compensation, 89290241). Elastic cigarettes, however,
deliver tar and nicotine at levels unexpected by the smoker.
A smoker may think that switching to a lighter cigarette will help
them “cut down” on smoking, but elasticity helps ensure that the
smoker maintains full levels of nicotine.
Instead of the choice between quitting and smoking, the smoker is
offered the illusion of a midway point that does little or nothing to
lower nicotine intake and may in fact pose an even greater health risk
because of the increased amount of smoke inhaled and further postponement
of smoking cessation.
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