Revealed: the nicotine fix

IIn experiments a tobacco firm 'spiked' cigarettes with an extra shot of the addictive drug, reports Peter Pringle

THE TOBACCO manufacturer Gallaher has admitted developing a process to add extra nicotine to cigarettes to keep smokers "satisfied".

In an ingenious method to add nicotine without blending in a higher nicotine leaf, Gallaher sprayed invisible micron-sized dots packed with nicotine on to the inside of cigarette papers. As the dots were exposed to moisture in the tobacco, or to the burning tip of the cigarette, they broke down and released an extra jolt of nicotine.

The process is likely to be explored in court as Gallaher and the other British tobacco giant, Imperial, faceBritain's first group-action lawsuit on behalf of smokers who have developed lung cancer. The 53 smokers claim that the manufacturers have known since the 1960s how to make less dangerous cigarettes, but have failed to do so.

Gallaher says it never marketed the cigarettes, that the nicotine dot development was only "experimental", and that it concluded the process "wasn't an appropriate way of using nicotine".

But, in the 1980s, Gallaher contracted with a Warrington chemical plant, J D Campbell & Sons Ltd, to produce the nicotine salt used in the micron dot method. According to former employees, Campbell produced about 30 batches containing enough nicotine to make 400 million cigarettes.

Gallaher declined to provide production figures, or say what happened to the cigarettes that were made, saying it had never marketed a product with added nicotine. However, it said that the development of the "nicotine additive printing" (NAP) process was in accordance with the Government's belief, in 1983, that smokers of middle-tar cigarettes should be encouraged to move to low-tar products.

"Gallaher did a lot of trials and went to great expense," said a former Campbell's employee.

Martyn Day, the plaintiffs' lead solicitor in the group action, said: "It is difficult to understand why they were trying to keep nicotine at a certain level if they do not accept that smokers need that level of nicotine to maintain their addiction." Gallaher, like other tobacco companies, says nicotine is not addictive.

The NAP method is revealed in a series of Gallaher patents that were filed in Britain and the United States between 1978 and 1987. The nicotine is added, says one of the patents, "in order to improve ... the satisfaction provided to the smoker". Another, in a similar vein, says the invention is "concerned with the application of additives - and physiological agents such as nicotine - in order to improve, or help to improve, the satisfaction provided to the smoker".

"Satisfaction" is the tobacco industry's euphemism for the harsh taste of nicotine in cigarette smoke and the action of nicotine on the brain.

In 1994, US government officials discovered American tobacco companies had filed a series of patents for adding nicotine. The companies countered that the existence of the patents did not mean the experiments were put into production, merely that the method was investigated. No company has been found engaging in production of a method to raise nicotine levels by adding nicotine.

The Gallaher method was invented by researchers at the Battelle Laboratories in Geneva, where they used special invisible inks to carry the nicotine, and advanced silk-screen printing techniques. The leading Swiss researcher, Alfred Schweizer, now retired, says he invented the process under contract to Gallaher in the late Seventies and Eighties. "We [at Battelle] had a gentlemen's agreement with Gallaher to give them our research. We received no separate royalties for the work," he said. He did not know his invention had been put into production.

In the 1980s, British and American tobacco companies were under increasing government pressure to reduce the harmful "tar" content of cigarette smoke. In 1983, the government's Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health recommended that tobacco companies should lower tar and also nicotine levels because this would "reduce dependence on tobacco and thus help smokers give up". The committee made one exception. They urged companies to encourage smokers of middle-tar cigarettes to smoke low-tar ones by producing brands with "proportionately higher" nicotine yields.

But the companies found that when they reduced the tar, they also reduced the nicotine, and risked losing consumers. "It is difficult," wrote the Gallaher patent applicants, "to reduce the tar yield without at the same time reducing the amount of desirable components made available to the smoker."

If they were to keep smokers "satisfied", they had to find a way of putting the nicotine back. Use of the dots, the inventors noted in the Gallaher patent, overcame several problems encountered in earlier methods of adding nicotine to the tobacco "rod", or to the paper.

Several big US and British tobacco companies have experimented with adding nicotine to finished cigarettes, either by spraying it on, injecting it into the wrapper or by including it in the filter tips. Nicotine is a highly volatile compound and has a short shelf-life, dissipating rapidly unless "fixed" in a chemical compound. The dots sealed the nicotine until exposed to moisture or heat. They also allowed the cigarette manufacturer to control the position on the cigarette at which the cigarette would deliver the most nicotine.

Dots placed at the front end of the "rod", for example, would mean the smoker would experience an extra jolt on the first few puffs on a cigarette. "The nicotine was profiled to provide more at the beginning than at the end of the smoke, so people who wanted a lower tar brand wouldn't stop after the first puff," said Jeff Jeffery, Gallaher's head of corporate affairs.

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home