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Researcher: Ammonia Not Addictive

April 1, 1998

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Tobacco companies add ammonia to some cigarettes to create a smoother, more flavorful smoke, a researcher for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. testified Tuesday in Minnesota’s tobacco trial.

The state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota allege that cigarette makers add ammonia to increase the pH of smoke so nicotine reaches the brain more quickly for a stronger ``kick.″

But the RJR researcher, David Townsend, testified there is little change in pH when Reynolds adds ammonia to cigarettes.

He also noted the 1979 U.S. surgeon general’s report on smoking and health, which said U.S. cigarettes have little of the more potent ``free″ form of nicotine said to be created by adding ammonia.

The state and the insurance company accuse the tobacco industry of researching issues of smoking and health but lying to the public about the dangers while manipulating nicotine to keep smokers hooked.

They are seeking $1.77 billion they say they have spent treating smoking-related illnesses, plus punitive damages.

Reynolds began to experiment with ammonia in the 1950s and first used ammoniated tobacco in its Camel Filters in 1974, said Townsend, vice president of product development and assessment for Reynolds.

``Marlboro was doing extremely well in the market compared to our products″ and researchers thought Philip Morris Inc. might be using ammoniated tobacco in its No. 1 brand, Townsend said.

Ammonia reacts with sugars and forms a number of flavorful compounds, he said. ``It does affect the smoke quality. It does affect the flavor characteristics.″

Measurements taken by Reynolds’ researchers in 1974 showed little difference in pH between ammoniated Camel Filters and non-ammoniated Winstons, according to a company memo.

It wasn’t until 1979 that Reynolds first began using ammoniated tobacco in Winstons.

Townsend said the company does not use ammoniated tobacco in all of its cigarettes because different smokers want different taste characteristics.

``In fact, more of the products we sell are not ammoniated than those that are,″ he said.

Customer likes and dislikes drive a company’s progress on health issues, Townsend said.

He described Reynolds’ attempt to develop a smokeless cigarette that had less tar. It was test-marketed in Arizona and Missouri but never caught on.

``It was difficult to light,″ Townsend said. ``The taste characteristics were quite different, too. It didn’t taste like other cigarettes. New products must be consumer-acceptable.″

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