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9-Misc: US tobacco industry tinkers with biotech cigarettes

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TITLE:  Tobacco industry tinkers with biotech cigarettes
SOURCE: Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle, USA
DATE:   November 20, 2002

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Tobacco industry tinkers with biotech cigarettes

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Two college researchers on Wednesday presented 
evidence that the tobacco industry, particularly Philip Morris, 
experimented with genetically engineered tobacco as early as the 1980s in 
an effort to control nicotine levels in cigarettes.

"There was an intersection of two research trends: biotechnology and the 
need for a low-nicotine cigarette," University of California, San Francisco 
researcher Joshua Denby told a gathering at the 2002 National Conference on 
Tobacco or Health. About 3,400 people are attending this year's conference, 
which focuses on efforts to reduce smoking.

Denby, with colleague Lisa Bero, pored over thousands of industry internal 
documents made public as part of the tobacco settlement of lawsuits with 
the states. They found evidence that Philip Morris paid $1.5 million to 
Davis biotechnology company Calgene, Inc., now a subsidiary of Monsanto 
Co., in 1986 to help it create a low-nicotine cigarette.

That effort failed, Denby said.

Nonetheless, New York-based Philip Morris continued to pursue the 
development of a low-nicotine cigarette aware that it was likely to be 
perceived as healthier, although it is not, Denby said. The company 
currently markets several products developed by more traditional, non-
biotechnological methods.

A representative from Philip Morris could not be reached immediately for 

This month, Philip Morris began inserting disclaimers in its "light," 
"ultra light," "mild," and "medium" cigarettes telling consumers those 
cigarettes aren't less harmful that full-flavored smokes.

So far, only one company, Vector Tobacco Inc., has sold cigarettes 
genetically engineered to be low-nicotine. However, the company's Omni-
brand cigarettes haven't caught on, ringing up a paltry $5.6 million in 
sales this year, according to its latest earnings report.

Vector is now pinning its hope on a new engineered cigarette, Quest, which 
will be launched in January.


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