Tuesday, May 31, 2005

BOSTON (AP) — Tobacco companies conducted 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, an analysis shows.

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

Carrie Carpenter, the study’s lead author, said companies’ research went far beyond a marketing or advertising 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 companies looked for ways to modify their cigarettes to give women the illusion that they could puff their way into a better life.

One of the documents, a 1993 internal report from Philip Morris, extolled 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 the company hasn’t had a chance to fully review it.

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

Miss Carpenter said they found at least 320 documents that focused 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 states.

Other internal studies showed that companies explored adding appetite suppressants to cigarettes.

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