In the early 1960s, the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, a subsidiary of the London-based British American Tobacco Plc, came up with the idea of heating, rather than burning, tobacco, thus avoiding many of the hazardous substances.
They tested it in a secret cigarette named Ariel. A prototype was made and granted a patent, but never sold, according to the documents. Much of the research into safer cigarettes was done at the company's British laboratories.
The company felt smokers would find the cigarette less satisfying, so did not sell it. Another cigarette manufacturer, R J Reynolds, introduced its own version of the safer cigarette, Premier. It also used the idea of heating rather than burning the tobacco, but it was not favoured by consumers and was withdrawn from the market.
Yesterday, Thomas Fitzgerald, a spokesman for Brown & Williamson, told the New York Times that the company had no comment to make on an inquiry apparently based on information from documents that had been 'stolen' from the offices of its lawyers.
According to the documents, the Ariel cigarette would have greatly reduced the cancer-causing agents in a cigarette, but exactly how this would occur was not specified. In addition to being less harmful to the smoker, it would also have reduced the amount of second-hand smoke.
The family of a man who died of lung cancer is suing the tobacco industry for dollars 650m (pounds 436m) alleging second-hand smoke caused his death. The suit alleges that Burl Butler, a non-smoker, contracted cancer after inhaling tobacco smoke at the barber shop he ran for 35 years in Laurel, Mississippi.Reuse content