Smoked out: how a tobacco giant plans to strike back

Outrage as BAT tests cigarettes laced with chocolate and vanilla
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Britain's largest tobacco company has been testing chocolate and alcohol-flavoured cigarettes, which campaigners say are aimed at enticing children to smoke.

Britain's largest tobacco company has been testing chocolate and alcohol-flavoured cigarettes, which campaigners say are aimed at enticing children to smoke.

British American Tobacco, whose brands include Rothmans and Lucky Strike, has been carrying out scientific trials on animals in Canada.

As well as chocolate, wine and sherry, BAT has also experimented with cocoa, corn syrup, cherry juice, maple syrup and vanilla.

Last night, the anti-smoking lobby group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reacted with fury to the revelations.

Deborah Arnott, director of ASH, said: "Adding sweets to tobacco is appalling. It shows that we need more tobacco regulation to prevent anything being added that could make tobacco more attractive, or smoother, or easier to use.

"These are the sort of ingredients that could make cigarettes more attractive to children, Why would they want to test these sort of additives?"

Frank Dobson, a former health secretary, said adding chocolate to cigarettes would be "the smoking version of alcopops". He added: "Nothing is beyond the devious wit of the tobacco industry. After all, they denied that cigarettes caused cancer. Then for years they denied that tobacco was addictive while stepping up the addictive aspects in cigarettes.

"We all know that hardly anyone takes up smoking when they are grown up. That is why the tobacco industry wants to target children. In this country, they kill 120,000 of their customers each year and they have to recruit 120,000 to make up for it.''

Smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of death in the world, and lung cancer alone kills one person every 15 minutes in Britain. It costs the NHS an estimated £1.7bn every year.

BAT is the second largest tobacco manufacturer in the world, with around 15 per cent of the global market. It made an operating profit of £640m in the first quarter of this year. Children are seen as particularly vulnerable to becoming addicted to smoking, and that is a key reason why advertising is so tightly controlled in this country. But the rules are less strict elsewhere.

A Mori report indicates that 25 per cent of secondary school children smoke. That compares with 21 per cent two years ago.

The trials, outlined in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, show how 482 ingredients were tested. BAT admitted that it commissioned the work to see if cigarettes with added ingredients had different effects on health to cigarettes without additives. The study was conducted over 90 days on three groups of rats at a laboratory in Canada because tests on live animals involving tobacco have been banned in the UK since 1997.

Asked why additives such as chocolate and tea were being tested, a BAT spokesman said that they were there because they were currently used or could be used in the future. He said: "I don't want to say tea never; chocolate, never. It is there for a reason. It is not something that is common. Anybody who might attempt to claim that they are added to appeal to youth are barking mad because cigarettes taste like cigarettes."

The spokesman admitted that food additives such as cocoa butter and liquorice were already used in some brands, including Lucky Strike, to add a subtle flavour. Additives had been used for many years but the amounts were so small that smokers would not be able to taste them. Most flavoured cigarettes were not sold in Britain, he said.

The spokesman said: "The amounts are tiny but they allow you to play very subtly with the taste of the cigarettes. They [the additives] are handy, they are useful, they are food-type ingredients."

The smoke inhalation tests on live rats were conducted at CTBR BioResearch Inc in Quebec. The paper published by three BAT scientists, entitled "An Overview of the Effects of Tobacco Ingredients on Smoke Chemistry and Toxicity", said the tests found there was no "discernible" difference between the effect of tobacco smoke and tobacco smoke with additives on the health of rats.

The Department of Health said yesterday that it had a list of additives that were permissible in cigarettes in the UK, including vanilla and cocoa. But chocolate was not among them. "Cocoa is included on the list but not chocolate. You could add cocoa butter but you could not add Cadbury's Dairy Milk to a cigarette here."

The animal rights lobby accused BAT of "exporting animal suffering outside the UK public's gaze". It described the experiments as "hideous" and "cruel". Nicky Gordon, of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: "It is especially reprehensible that these cruel experiments appear to be about adding flavours like chocolate to cigarettes in what one can only assume is an attempt to make smoking more attractive. No matter how much sweetener BAT adds to its cigarettes, these hideous animal experiments will still leave a bitter taste in the mouth."

BAT said it had carried out the animal tests to comply with new rules on additives which will come into force with new EU legislation. It said it had to conduct the animal experiments abroad because of the UK ban on using animals in tobacco tests.

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