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Former tobacco researcher blasts cigarette makers

April 12, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

There is no such thing as a light cigarette, according to Victor DeNoble.

During a tobacco conference in Hagerstown on Monday, the former Phillip Morris researcher described an industry that deceives customers without breaking laws.

"How do you make a light cigarette? You take a regular cigarette and put laser holes in the filter," said DeNoble, who was the keynote speaker at the conference.

He said light cigarettes are regular cigarettes with tiny holes and channels in the filter, allowing fresh air to dilute the smoke in every inhalation.

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The product passes a Food and Drug Administration test in which a machine "smokes" and analyzes the intake, DeNoble said. Light cigarettes are designed to fool the machine, he said.

For example, the channels in each filter are made with a water-based glue, he said. When people smoke, their saliva dissolves the glue and the channels collapse. But the machine has no lips and takes in more air.

"These guys are good," said DeNoble. "They did not break the law."

DeNoble was project leader of the behavioral pharmacology laboratory at the Phillip Morris Research Center in Richmond, Va., from 1980 to 1983. His research focused on the effects of nicotine.

DeNoble said he was fired in 1984. He became a whistle-blower, helping Congress build a case against the tobacco industry. He is currently a flight instructor and vice president of a communications firm in Newark, Del.

The Washington County Board of Education, the Washington County Health Department and the Tobacco Free Washington County Coalition co-sponsored the conference in the Hagerstown Community College Valley Mall Conference Center.

More than 50 educators, counselors, health and human service providers and others attended the event.

"How did all this become legal?" he said. "We need to remember, this country was founded on tobacco. It was our only cash crop." Tobacco leaves decorate the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, he said.

DeNoble predicted the tobacco industry eventually will stop selling cigarettes domestically, since the United States is only a small portion of the market. In the near future, drugs will be developed that will help people stop smoking, he said.

During the seminar, DeNoble spoke about the pharmacological basis for nicotine addiction and the ethics of the tobacco business. He criticized the industry for manipulating laws to its own advantage.

"They did something socially immoral through the legal system," he said.

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