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Tobacco Firm Considered Buying Nicotine Patch Maker

Brown & Williamson executives urged the company to buy a nicotine patch maker so it could profit from its customers’ attempts to quit smoking, “60 Minutes” reported Sunday.

The CBS news show said it learned of the proposal from documents from British American Tobacco PLC, a London-based company that owns Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp of The Louisville, Ky.

While some of the unidentified executives were urging the company to buy a patch company, at least one warned against making such a move.

“If we did anything which suggests we were simply in the nicotine delivery business, we would run a serious risk of facing FDA jurisdiction,” the executive wrote in a memo to the company’s chief executive officer.

Nicotine patches, used to help people quit smoking, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

The executive also wrote that the implications of owning a nicotine patch business posed a “potential major threat to our business.” Those threats were the possibility of FDA regulation and the likelihood of lawsuits, “60 Minutes” reported.

Sunday’s telecast also included an interview with Dr. Ian Uydess, who worked for 11 years as a senior research scientist for Philip Morris Cos. in Richmond, Va.

Uydess was one of three Philip Morris employees who filed affidavits this week with the FDA, saying Philip Morris, despite public denials, manipulates the nicotine level in its tobacco products.

Uydess, who said he was hired to develop a “safer” cigarette, said he believed that the threat of regulation and lawsuits caused some of his projects to be shut down.

Uydess’ statements and earlier ones from Jeffrey Wigand, the former research chief at B&W;, could support the FDA’s efforts to regulate cigarettes and a class-action suit claiming tobacco companies lied to the public about the alleged addictive powers of nicotine.

Wigand has said former company chairman Thomas Sandefur lied to Congress when he testified that he believed nicotine is not addictive. He also said Sandefur rejected making safer cigarettes because it would put the company at “extreme exposure” with its other tobacco products.


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