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9-Misc: Nicotine-reduced cigarettes made out of GE tobacco reachmarket

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TITLE:  Nicotine-Reduced Cigarettes Reach Market
SOURCE: Associated Press/, by Emery P. Dalesio
DATE:   Jan 27, 2003

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Nicotine-Reduced Cigarettes Reach Market

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The first tobacco CEO to acknowledge smoking is
addictive is offering a new cigarette made with genetically modified
tobacco that lets smokers choose their level of nicotine.

Vector Tobacco Inc. stops short of marketing its Quest cigarettes as a
smoking cessation product -- a claim that could draw the regulatory
attention of the Food and Drug Administration.

The cigarettes are, however, designed to allow smokers to cut back on
nicotine, the addictive element in tobacco.

"The purpose of this product is to help people get to a nicotine-free
environment, where they can have zero nicotine in their system. Then they
can decide what to do from that point forward," said Bennett LeBow, who
runs parent company Vector Group Ltd.

The company is spending $15 million on advertising for Quest in seven
Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states beginning Monday. It also is funding
research at Duke University on how Quest affects smokers' nicotine intake
and urge to smoke.

"Quest is an intriguing curiosity," said Kenneth Warner, a public health
professor and director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research
Network, which studies smoking and health. "Whether it could be used by
smokers to consciously wean themselves off smoking remains to be seen but
is worthy of study."

LeBow's other tobacco company, Mebane-based Liggett Group, was the first
to break ranks with Big Tobacco and settle smoking-related litigation in
1996. LeBow was the first tobacco CEO to acknowledge that smoking is
addictive and causes serious health problems.

As long as Vector doesn't claim Quest is a smoking-cessation product, a
2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bars the FDA from regulating the
tobacco industry allows the cigarette onto the market without the
extensive testing required of approved stop-smoking products.

Although the company says Quest contains only trace amounts of nicotine,
it makes no claims that the cigarette reduces carbon monoxide or the
chemicals that increase the risk of cancer. Smoking also is linked to
heart disease, emphysema and birth defects.

Cigarette makers have been challenged on some of their claims, including
the use of "light" in marketing some cigarettes, which smokers have
complained mislead them to believe the cigarettes were less harmful.

A class-action lawsuit now in court in Illinois accuses the maker of
Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights of misleading customers to that end.
A lawyer for the company argues that the cigarette-maker never meant
people to believe that smoking "light" cigarettes would be less harmful
than smoking regular ones.

Quest takes a different approach. It allows smokers to choose their
nicotine content: Quest 1 has 17 percent less nicotine than an average
light cigarette, the company said. Quest 2 has 58 percent less nicotine,
and Quest 3 is virtually nicotine-free.

Duke University nicotine researcher Dr. Jed Rose is testing users of
Quest and the nicotine patch with a group using Quest alone. Rose, the
co-inventor of the nicotine patch who is director of Duke's Nicotine
Research Program, said subjects have been able to step down their
nicotine intake but have been unable to put down their Quest 3 smokes
within six weeks.

John Banzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, an
anti-tobacco health organization in Washington, D.C., questioned why
people would buy the cigarette.

"The reason that most people smoke is that they want their nicotine. They
smoke solely because they want that nicotine kick," Banzhaf said.

Quest's launch follows Vector Tobacco's disappointing 2001 launch of
Omni, which has normal nicotine levels but is treated to reduce cancer-
causing compounds.

LeBow said human studies are underway to prove smoking Omni reduces the
risk of cancer. Depending on test results and customer acceptance, Vector
could one day market a cigarette that features both reduced carcinogens
and virtually no nicotine, he said.

The seven states where Quest is being sold are New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, the company said.