June 1, 2005 in Nation/World

Tobacco industry examined ways to lure female smokers, study says

Michael Kunzelman Associated Press
 

Harvard School of Public Health: www.hsph.harvard.edu

“Innovators Combating Substance Abuse at Johns Hopkins University: www.innovatorsawards.org

BOSTON – Tobacco companies did elaborate research on women to figure out how to hook them on smoking – even toying with the idea of chocolate-flavored cigarettes that would curb appetite, according to a new analysis.

Researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health examined more than 7 million documents – some back to 1969, others as recent as 2000 – for new details about the industry’s efforts to lure more women smokers.

Carrie Carpenter, the study’s lead author, said companies’ research went beyond a marketing campaign.

“They did so much research in such a sophisticated way,” she said. “Women should know how far the tobacco industry went to exploit them.”

The report, published in the June issue of the journal Addiction, says tobacco firms sought ways to modify cigarettes to give women the illusion they could puff their way into a better life.

A 1987 Phillip Morris internal report extolled the virtues of making a longer, slimmer cigarette that offered the false promise of a “healthier” product.

“Most smokers have little notion of their brand’s tar and nicotine levels,” the report states. “Perception is more important than reality, and in this case the perception is of reduced tobacco consumption.”

A Philip Morris spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying they haven’t had a chance to fully review the report.

The Harvard researchers spent more than a year sifting through an online database of internal documents made public after the 1998 settlement between tobacco firms and 46 states.

Carpenter said they found at least 320 documents focusing on women’s smoking patterns, including a 1982 report from British-American Tobacco Co. that said women buy cigarettes to help them “cope with neuroticism.”

“We can safely conclude that the strength of cigarettes that are purchased by women is related to their degree of neuroticism,” the report stated.

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