UK cigarettes 'not spiked': Industry denies use of genetically-altered tobacco leaves

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CIGARETTES on sale in Britain do not contain tobacco from plants allegedly manipulated by US tobacco companies to have twice the normal nicotine content, manufacturers said yesterday.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said leaves from the altered plant were not used in Britain, where cigarettes are not blended as they are in the US.

The statement followed claims on Tuesday by the head of the American Food and Drug Administration that Brown and Williamson (a company owned by British American Tobacco) had genetically altered tobacco plants, called Y-1, to double the nicotine content. The chairman of Brown and Williamson is due to give evidence to the congressional hearing today, when he is expected to deny many of the points made by the FDA chief, David Kessler.

Mr Kessler told a congressional hearing on the tobacco industry that Brown and Williamson had grown the plants secretly in Brazil. He also claimed that some cigarette brands were 'spiked' with ammonia to double the amount of nicotine that entered a smoker's bloodstream. The association rejected this claim yesterday.

If the FDA can show that companies deliberately set out to manipulate nicotine content, this could strengthen its hand in calling for tobacco to be regulated as a drug - a move that could lead to a ban on cigarettes.

But a BAT Industries spokesman said: 'This is an agency with an agenda - and that is to acquire jurisdiction over tobacco so it can regulate it out of existence.'

BAT said the Y-1 tobacco plant was developed by the US Department of Agriculture in the search for a tobacco for low-tar cigarettes. Brown and Williamson continued development when the US Government stopped.

A spokesman for BAT said yesterday that Y-1 was a blending tool that delivered the same nicotine as products it replaced.

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