Nicotine-Free Cigarette To Hit Market
MIAMI (AP) - Vector Group Ltd. plans to introduce a cigarette made from genetically modified tobacco that is virtually nicotine-free and could be used as a tool to quit smoking.
Vector says smokers who tried the new cigarette think it smokes and tastes like a conventional cigarette. Previous attempts by other cigarette makers to market smokeless and nicotine-free cigarettes have flopped.
``It certainly opens some new possibilities,'' Jed Rose, nicotine research chief at Duke University, said Tuesday. He is completing tests of the new cigarettes with five groups of a dozen smokers who expressed a desire to quit.
Nicotine makes smoking addictive, and a cigarette without it wouldn't produce the dependency that others do. The cigarette now being tested also cuts cancer-causing nitrosamines, but other cancer-causing chemicals would be present in the smoke.
``We believe that a virtually nicotine-free tobacco could provide a non-addictive alternative to smokers and make smoking a matter of choice,'' said Vector chairman Bennett LeBow, who broke ranks with other industry leaders in 1997.
LeBow has released incriminating industry documents, acknowledged smoking kills and is addictive, settled industry lawsuits and testified against industry leaders.
Vector's cigarette arm, Liggett Group, hopes to obtain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) approval to sell the new cigarette as a tool for quitters. If that failed, the company could still promote the cigarette's lack of addictive power by telling smokers they can choose to smoke when they want to instead of when they need to.
The genetically altered tobacco was developed by former North Carolina State University geneticist Mark Conkling, who now works for Vector.
Tests have shown the nameless cigarette to be popular with older smokers. Smokers also report smoking less when they smoke a combination of the new and existing cigarettes.
The cigarettes could be used as a stepping stone to cessation or as a less harmful alternative for smokers who can't stop, Rose said.
Another interesting test finding is that the smokers showed no signs of harmful compensation, a practice seen in smokers switching from high to low nicotine cigarettes of drawing harder and holding smoke in the lungs longer, he said.
The cigarette is expected to reach the market early next year after Liggett completes tests, picks a brand name and grows enough tobacco to build inventory.
With 1.5 percent of the U.S. market, Liggett until now was content to live off the marketing of the majors to maintain sales, primarily generic and discount house brands sold by convenience stores and others.
Unlike the competition, Liggett does not advertise its cigarettes, puts an extra warning on all packs saying smoking is addictive and puts an ingredient list in cartons.