Project XA was a long-term research project by Liggett to make a safer cigarette. Liggett spent twelve years and $15 million developing a cigarette that its research showed to be significantly less carcinogenic than its conventional cigarettes. Project XA, also known as the Palladium cigarette, incorporated palladium nitrate into tobacco, which made combustion of the tobacco more thorough and complete, resulting in smoke containing less harmful byproducts.
The project was based on the fact that palladium nitrate acts as a catalyst, causing more complete combustion of the byproducts of pyrolysis (burning). The theory is similar to the one behind palladium spark plugs, which cause gasoline to burn more efficiently in an engine. Palladium nitrate was added to cigarette tobacco, which caused more complete destruction of dangerous byproducts in cigarette smoke.
The project progressed through more than 20 years of R&D, to the point where Liggett started seeking out sources of palladium and stockpiling it to begin commercial production of the cigarettes.
Liggett killed the entire project, though, before marketing the XA cigarette to consumers. According to the United States Proposed Findings of Fact in the case United States v. Philip Morris et al (filed in 1999), Defendant Brown & Williamson threatened Liggett's "very existence" if it marketed the cigarette. B&W also threatened to freeze Liggett out of joint defense agreements and exclude Liggett from the Tobacco Institute. The threat, delivered through B&W's representative on the Tobacco Institute Committee of Counsel, was based on B&W's fear that selling the XA cigarette would be an admission against the interest of all Cigarette Company Defendants. Later, in the late 1980s, R.J. Reynolds told the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that it would not make health-related marketing claims about its Premier Brand Cigarettes because the tobacco industry maintained that "conventional cigarettes are not unsafe, and that it would never reverse this position." Promoting one cigarette as "safer" than others "would be an indictment of the tobacco industry and its longstanding position that conventional cigarettes are not unsafe."
- Tobacco company ignored safer cigarette, paper says, newspaper article, Lexington Herald-Leader, Sept. 28, 1992.
- Report regarding corporate activity project. Evaluation of industry activities regarding smoking and health and legal ramifications by tobacco industry attorneys firm Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue Section on Palladium cigarette starts on Page 28.
Related Sourcewatch resources