BAT documents show that addicting customers is core business

Sunday 15 February 1998

ASH/ Press releases/


102 Clifton Street, London EC2A 4HW Tel: (020) 7739 5902 Fax: (020) 7613 0531

Press release15 February 1998 ASH
Action on Smoking
and Health

BAT document shows that addicting customers is its core business

A newly released document provides the starkest evidence yet that theBritish tobacco multi-national, BAT, recognised almost 20 years ago that the tobaccobusiness is based on the nicotine addiction of its customers. The document shows thecompany feared losing smokers and considered developing new products that would also beaddictive but produce no smoke. However, the memo’s author concedes that there are ethicalproblems with creating dependence and feared that society/medical opinion would preventthe company introducing a new addictive product. The 1979 document has just been releasedas Trial Exhibit 11,283 in the current US State of Minnesota tobacco litigation andincludes the following statements regarding the possibility of developing new products forcustomers that could stop smoking:

“We are searching explicitly for a socially acceptable addictive product involving:

  • a pattern of repeated consumption
  • a product which is likely to involve repeated handling
  • the essential constituent is most likely to be nicotine or a direct substitute for it
  • the product must be non-ignitable (to eliminate inhalation of combustion products and passive smoking)

“We also think that consideration should be given to the hypothesis that the high profits additionally associated with the tobacco industry are directly related to the fact that the customer is dependent upon the product.

“Looked at another way, it does not follow that future alternative ‘Product X’ would sustain a profit level above most other product/business activities unless, like tobacco, it was associated with dependence.”

“If, in fact, it were not able to sustain a high profit level then there is no ‘a priori’ reason why tobacco companies should take the risk of investing in a new speculative area but rather should consider investment into established business.”

“That being the case, one must question the ethics and practical possibilities of society/medical opinion permitting the advent of the new habituation process”

Clive Bates, Director of ASH, said: “The document shows the chilling logic of acompany understanding that its whole business depends on addicting its customers tonicotine, but recognising the harmful effects of tobacco smoke are a strategic threat toits customer base.”

Bates added: “BAT’s stark acknowledgement that the product is addictive and thataddiction creates ethical problems means that tobacco must now clearly be treated as aspecial case – a bizarre freak among consumer products. If the Government needs anyfurther encouragement to take the strongest possible action against tobacco in its summerWhite Paper, then all the justification is here in the documents emerging from theMinnesota action”

“It is sad that we only get the full story about the British tobacco industrythrough a trial in the US State of Minnesota. On Monday, ASH will call on the House ofCommons Health Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into the tobacco business so thatthese documents and others can be released in the UK, and so that Parliament is fullyinformed of the commercial importance the tobacco industry attaches to addiction”,said Bates.


Contact Clive Bates, Director (020) 7739 5902
Amanda Sandford, Communications Director (020) 7739 5902

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