News Releases

January 16, 2001

Newly released tobacco documents show plans to deceive consumers and authorities

(Ottawa) Today’s release of a new batch of formerly secret tobacco industry documents reveals disturbing details about tobacco industry scientists’ cynical disregard for human safety, say Canada's leading anti-tobacco groups.

The 30,000 pages made public today come from the archives of British American Tobacco (BAT),  the parent company of Canada’s dominant cigarette manufacturer, Imperial Tobacco. The documents were obtained by Health Canada following a trip last year to the BAT depository in Guildford, England, which contains millions of pages of documents that the company has been forced by court order to make publicly accessible.

“We’ve known for years that tobacco manufacturers mislead the public about the health damage their products cause,” commented Francis Thompson, policy analyst with the Non-Smokers' Rights Association (NSRA). “This deception goes far beyond slick PR strategies, as we see in these latest documents. Even in the mid-1990s, when the paper trail runs out, engineers and scientists in the industry, both in Canada and abroad, were still working hard to maximize the deceptiveness of their cigarettes.”

Among the documents released today are some which detail two related projects (HAMSTER and GRASP) designed to give low readings to smoking machines yet act like regular cigarettes in the hands of human smokers. The technology was tested on Canadian cigarettes, though the paper trail runs out before it becomes clear whether it was put into full-scale production. "With Project HAMSTER and Project GRASP we see how intricate the engineering of cigarettes could be," explained Thompson. "For the tobacco industry, the ideal cigarette delivers low doses of tar and nicotine to testing machines while giving full doses toxins and nicotine to human smokers.”

"Patterns are now emerging," said PSC Research Director Neil Collishaw. "We now have a much clearer picture of how the tobacco companies have conducted their research and development. Not only did manufacturers design cigarettes to provide false health reassurance to consumers, they also suppressed information about specific health hazards and how to eliminate them.”

"The documents also show that BAT knew in detail what the hazards of the products were.  And they knew it a long, long time ago.," said Mr. Collishaw, referring to a newly released document from 1965. "In the early sixties, BAT was measuring the highly carcinogenic Benzo(a)pyrene in cigarette smoke.

These documents also reveal BAT's studies on fire-safe cigarettes.  "Every year, dozens of people are killed by cigarette-caused fires," said Francis Thompson.  "BAT has known for at least 20 years how to make cigarettes self-extinguishing, yet has never done so."

With 130,000 pages of documents now having been brought back from the Guildford depository because of their relevance to Canada, the following fundamental facts about British-American Tobacco can now be documented:

  • BAT has known in great detail that its products cause cancer and other diseases.  They have known it since the 1950s and the 1960s, and have concealed much of this information from governments, their customers and the general public.

  • During the 1980s and 1990s they have developed ever more sophisiticated technology with the express purposes of cheating smoking machines and deceiving smokers.

  • Since the 1980s, they have known of the technology to produce fire-safe cigarettes, yet have never implemented this technology.

 "Enough material about Imperial Tobacco is now in Health Canada's possession to warrant a thorough scientific and judicial review of the design of the cigarette and the behaviour of its manufacturers," said Neil Collishaw.  "The Minister of Health should not further delay setting up terms of reference for these reviews, and appointing independent scientists and counsel to conduct them."

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The origins of the Guildford depository

In 1998, BAT settled a lawsuit filed by the state of Minnesota shortly before a judgement was expected. Under the terms of the court-approved settlement, BAT is obliged to make available documents produced for the Minnesota lawyers as they prepared their case. The documents are now warehoused in Guildford, a suburb of London, England.  Lawyers from Health Canada, Justice Canada, the government of British Columbia have researched documents at this depository, as have researchers from the Non-Smokers' Rights Association (NSRA) and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC).