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Barclay cigarette

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Barclay was a controversial cigarette brand put out by the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. (B&W) in the early 1980s. To introduce Barclay cigarettes, B&W rolled out an advertising campaign that claimed the product was 99% tar free. The product had a specific design that generated phenomenally low yield data in the FTC tests for tar. This alarmed B&W’s competitors, who then petitioned the FTC for help. In doing so, they disclosed their knowledge that the FTC testing procedure was flawed and the yield data was thus invalid for human smokers.[1]

The Barclay story

Barlcay cigarette ad from 1981

Brown & Williamson claimed Barclay gave the smoker just 1 milligram of tar and 0.2 milligrams of nicotine by FTC method of testing. Barclay immediately caused a stir at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR), who claimed that the Barclay cigarette had a new filter design that allowed it to circumvent the FTC tests and misreport the amount of tar and nicotine being delivered to the smoker.

Cigarette makers traditionally lower the "tar" content of cigarettes by designing filters that allow air to mix with the smoke, diluting the smoke and all its constituents. The filters of most "low tar" cigarettes have rows of small ventilating holes encircling the filter which allow air to mix with smoke during inhalation, diluting the "tar" and nicotine in the smoke. The Barclay cigarette, however, had four lengthwise channels which conducted the air from the ventilating holes directly into the smoker's mouth, preventing air from mixing with the smoke until the level of the smoker's mouth. The amount of air dilution in the Barclay cigarette could be reduced if the smoker crushed the channels or blocked them with his lips. Since the FTC machine did not block the channels, it allowed the maximum of amount of air to mix with the smoke.

RJR wrote to the FTC and argued that the FTC's testing machines did not collapse the or block the filter holes on Barclay as a human smoker does, and thus the machine indicated a much lower "tar" content when testing Barclay than is typically delivered by Barclay to consumers. One account claimed that consumers were able to obtain up to seven times more smoke from Barclay cigarettes than from other cigarettes. [2]

An RJR memo highlighted by the Department of Justice discusses the deception and what would occur if the FTC failed to stop Barclay from being marketed as a low tar cigarette.

RJR writes,

...This generation of [Barclay-type] products, or the next, could easily be products which will deliver NO 'tar' or nicotine when smoked by the FTC method, and yet when smoked by humans essentially be unfiltered cigarettes. Such products could (and would) be advertised as 'tar-free', 'zero milligrams FTC tar,' or 'the ultimate low-tar cigarette', while actually delivering 20-, 30-, 40-mg. or more 'tar' when used by a human smoker! They will be extremely easy to design and produce... Such cigarettes, while deceptive in the extreme, would be very difficult for the consumer to resist, since they would provide everything that we presently believe makes for desirable products: taste, 'punch,' ease of draw and 'low FTC tar'...Once such products are legitimately introduced, no manufacturer could survive and resist the marketplace pressure to produce them.

Full quotes from the document state:

During our consideration of various aspects of the "Barclay problem" it has become apparent to us that the failure of the rule against Brown and Williamson could trigger events that would ultimately be disastrous for the entire tobacco industry.

We envision the following events as being very likely if the FTC fails to act against Brown and Williamson:

1. The Barclay cigarette and, more importantly, the concept of "beating the FTC" would be legitimized.

2. Public acceptance (sales) of the Barclay would continue increase.

3. Other tobacco companies, including RJR, will be forced to protect their interests in the marketplace by introducing "Barclay competitors". At first these will be mere mimics of Barclay, designed to circumvent Brown and Williamson's patent protection.

4. The next generation of "Barclay competitors" will be spawned (indeed has already been spawned)in the minds of R & D and marketing people throughout the industry and its suppliers. This generation of products, or the next, could easily be products which will deliver NO 'tar' or nicotine when smoked by the FTC method, and yet when smoked by humans essentially be unfiltered cigarettes. Such products could (and would) be advertised as "tar-free", zero milligrams FTC tar," or "the ultimate low-tar cigarette", while actually delivering 20-, 30-, 40-Mg or more 'tar' when used by a human smoker! They will be extremely easy to design and produce.

If there is any doubt that such products could be made, we will be happy to provide design sketches or prototypes of new or existing designs which will substantially accomplish the feat.

Such cigarettes, while deceptive in the extreme, would be very difficult for the consumer to resist, since they would provide everything that we presently believe makes for desirable products: taste, "punch," ease of draw and "low FTC tar".

Once such products are legitimately introduced, no Manufacturer could survive and resist the marketplace pressure to produce them.

5. Such products will be recognized by anti-smoking forces for what they are....No time would be lost in their allegation that cigarette Manufacturers were corrupt, duplicitous monsters who should be barred from foisting their insidious and deadly wares on the innocent public

The anti-smoking forces will be able to demonstrate, as we have done in the case of Barclay, the nature of these products. They will thus be given a means to marshal public opinion against the tobacco industry as never before. It is conceivable that such a revitalized campaign could lead to extremely harsh regulatory legislation or outright prohibition of cigarette manufacture...[3]


References

  1. Pollay R, Dewhirst T,The dark side of marketing seemingly "light" cigarettes: successful images and failed fact, Tobacco Control, 2002;11;18-31
  2. Brown & Williamson Exhibits Annexed to Comments of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation on the Federal Trade Commission's Proposal to Modify the Official Cigarette Testing Methodology (49 Federal Register 23120) Volume III Exhibits O-V Report. 606 pp., at page -0349. July 5, 1984. Bates No. 686050343/0947
  3. J.H. Reynolds IV, A.B. Norman, J. H. Robinson : Possible Consequences of Failure of the FTC to Act Against the Barclay Cigarette Filter and Its Mimics Letter. 2 pp. March 4, 1982. R.J. Reynolds Bates No. 503670658/0659
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