Liggett Tobacco, or the Liggett Group, was formerly known as the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, and is the smallest major U.S. tobacco company. Liggett was the maker of L&M, Chesterfield, Lark and Eve brand cigarettes.
In 1996-97 Liggett Group became the first tobacco company to settle smoking related litigation brought by the Attorneys General of several states. In 1998 Liggett signed the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and 1999 formed Vector Tobacco, Inc.
Project XA - The Safer Cigarette Never Sold
Liggett spent 20 years researching and developing a safer cigarette and was apparently successful. Called Project XA, Liggett decided not to market the cigarette product after an apparent threat of retaliation by another manufacturer, and after company executives expressed concern that marketing a safer cigarette would imply that traditional cigarettes were unsafe.
Liggett initiated its safer cigarette project, called XA, in 1968. After spending $14 million of R&D, Liggett internally declared the project a success in 1979. By applying an additive of palladium metal and magnesium nitrate to tobacco to act as a catalyst in the burning process, Liggett found that "[c]igarette tar has been neutralized" and that there was "[n]o evidence for new or increased hazard. . . ." Using this process, Liggett began to produce cigarettes "which are believed to be of commercial quality." These cigarettes were never marketed.
Two apparent reasons led Liggett to abandon the Project XA cigarette. One was the fear that the marketing of a "safer" cigarette would essentially be a confession that its own, and the tobacco industry's, "traditional" cigarettes were not safe. One Liggett executive wrote that, "Any domestic activity will increase risk of cancer litigation on existing products." In addition, there was an apparent threat of retaliation from industry leader Philip Morris if Liggett broke ranks.
James Mold, the assistant director of research at Liggett during the development of Project XA, has provided the following overview of the XA project and its abandonment:
Mold stated, "We produced a cigarette which was, we felt, was commercially acceptable as established by some consumer tests, which eliminated carcinogenic activity. . . ." He stated that after 1975, all meetings on the project were attended by lawyers, lawyers collected all notes after the meetings, and all documents were directed to the law department to maintain the attorney-client privilege. He stated, "Whenever any problem came up on the project, the Legal Department would pounce upon that in an attempt to kill the project, and this happened time and time again."
Mold was asked why Liggett didn't market a safer cigarette. He stated, "Well, I can't give you, you know, a positive statement because I wasn't in the management circles that made the decision, but I certainly had a pretty fair idea why. . . . [T]hey felt that such a cigarette, if put on the market, would seriously indict them for having sold other types of cigarettes that didn't contain this, for example." Also, "[a]t a meeting we held in . . . New Jersey at the Grand Met headquarters. . . at which the various legal people involved and the management people involved and myself were present. At one point Mr. Dey . . . who at that time, and I guess still is the president of Liggett Tobacco, made the statement that he was told by someone in the Philip Morris company that if we tried to market such a product that they would clobber us." (Taken from the State of Minnesota's Second Amended Complaint against Philip Morris et al).
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