British American Tobacco (BAT) denied claims it intends imminently to start making products developed using reduced harm research - but admitted that producing less toxic cigarettes is an urgent priority.
A spokesperson confirmed that it is currently developing new brands which could take advantage of new filtering procedures, but admitted the science around harm-reduction is inconclusive.
“There is no such thing as a safe cigarette. We are working very hard to bring a reduced risk product to market, but we are very, very far away from that.”
The company has also denied suggestions that it had privately spoken of creating a product which could reduce the risk of a smoker developing cancer or heart disease by up to 90%. “There is no truth in the claim over a 90% reduction in risks, that relates to a study of the use of smokeless tobacco, or Swedish- style snus. That product isn’t lighted and has reduced health risks - but the same figures do not apply to any combustible tobacco product.”
In January, rival firm Philip Morris began tests of a new Marlboro Ultra Smooth brand - marketed on the strength of a new carbon filter system.
Critics attacked the marketing slogan “All of the flavour gets through” and claimed there was an underlying implication that the cigarettes carry a reduced risk to health.
Deborah Arnott, director of Action on Smoking and Health said: “There is no way of significantly reducing the harm of smoking.”
BAT is understood to be considering the use of new three-layer filters to remove toxins from cigarettes and has developed methods of drying out tobacco leaves which are reputed to reduce levels of cancer causing compounds.
Scientists are said to be confident that products using the new technology would look, taste and burn exactly like traditional cigarettes.