The Search for Safe Cigarettes
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We place the tobacco industry's search for a safer cigarette in two general categories: reducing the tar in cigarettes - theoretically, eliminating some risks associated with smoking; and two, developing a cigarette less likely to cause fires - nationally, 25% of fires result from a careless cigarette smoker.

On February 20, 2001, CBS 60 Minutes II reported on the deception, and general public misperception, linked to low tar, or light, cigarettes. provides a summary of this issue, including copies of the actual documents that supported the CBS announcement. We introduce additional industry documents to illustrate further the magnitude of this epic public deception.

See: The Low Tar Cigarette Illusion.
On October 5, 2000, Philip Morris (PM) announced in USA Today they were introducing "PaperSelect." This technology is now available on Merit cigarettes. PM claims "cigarettes made with PaperSelect may be less likely to ignite certain fabrics*. PaperSelect features ultra-thin paper rings that work like speed bumps, causing the cigarette to burn slower when the lit end crosses over them. It may even put itself out when resting in an ashtray."

Historically, consumer advocates have called for a cigarette that self-exstinguishes as a high percentage of fires are caused by burning cigarettes left unattended. The documents in this section illustrate some of the arguments in this issue area.

*Philip Morris includes a footnote to their claim of a cigarette less likely to ignite certain fabrics: "Cigarettes made with this paper were evaluated under a laboratory test method designed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to measure the likelihood that cigarettes will ignite the three test fabrics specified in this test method. Under this testing method, these cigarettes produced fewer ignitions of the three fabrics as compared to the same cigarettes made without the special paper. It is important to note that the test fabrics are not necessarily representative of the kinds of fabrics one might find in a particular home or elsewhere. These cigarettes are not "fire safe." Do not handle or dispose of cigarettes made with this special paper with any less care than other cigarettes. Anything that burns, including cigarettes or cigarette ashes, can cause fire if handled carelessly.

These three documents, news articles relating to the fire-safe cigarette issue, come from the Philip Morris document archive -- 2026265507/5518 [1] [2] [3].

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Wednesday, October 18, 2000
Editorial: One hand clapping

THE Philip Morris Co. this week began advertising a safer cigarette. The cigarettes may still cause lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, pregnancy complications and all sorts of bad things. But at least the drapes are safer.

Philip Morris, the nation's largest cigarette manufacturer, is now rolling its popular Merit brand in special paper that has extra rings of ultra-thin paper applied at intervals along the cigarette. When the burning ember reaches the "speed bump" rings, the burning process slows down. Indeed, the company says the cigarette may even extinguish itself if it's sitting in an ashtray.

Furthermore, laboratory tests show that certain kinds of fabrics, under certain conditions, are less likely to ignite when they come into contact with the new cigarettes.

In the death-merchant world of Big Tobacco, this is what passes for progress. The American Heart Association says 430,000 Americans a year die prematurely from smoking, and the new packaging won't help them.

But 1,400 more Americans a year are killed in fires caused by cigarettes, and the new packaging could help that problem. The problem is particularly acute among elderly smokers, who are more likely fall asleep with burning cigarettes in their hands.

Tobacco critics have long claimed that the industry knew how to make cigarettes less likely to cause fires, but refused to do so. Why the resistance? The industry says consumers complained in taste-tests that safer cigarettes didn't taste right. But Richard Kluger, in his Pulitzer-prize-winning book, "Ashes to Ashes," said the industry "was reluctant to risk introducing a manufacturing technique that would remind consumers of still one more way that smoking imperiled human life."

Now, under prodding from the federal government and state legislatures, Philip Morris has come up with PaperSelect Merits. If consumers accept their taste, and enough other manufacturers follow suit, smokers and their families will be marginally safer.

And who knows? Philip Morris could even be doing a favor for its competitors. In 1997, a fire caused by a workman's carelessly discarded cigarette caused $750,000 in damages to a North Carolina vacation home owned by Andrew J. Schindler.

Mr. Schindler is the chairman and chief executive officer of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

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