Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) say their analysis of tobacco industry documents shows that Philip Morris USA manipulated data on the effects of additives in cigarettes, including menthol, obscuring actual toxicity levels and increasing the risk of heart, cancer and other diseases for smokers.
The takeaway, they conclude, is that industry information shouldn't be accepted at face value. Further, they say there is abundant evidence that hundreds of additives, including menthol, should be eliminated from cigarettes on public health grounds.
For the study, the researcher said they reassessed data from Philip Morris’ “Project MIX,” which detailed chemical analyses of smoke and animal toxicology studies of 333 cigarette additives. Philip Morris, the nation’s largest tobacco company, published the findings from that study in 2002.
By investigating the origins and design of Project MIX, the UCSF researchers conducted their own inquiry into the Philip Morris results and came up with a strikingly different outcome. They said they found that many of the toxins in cigarette smoke substantially increased after additives were added to cigarettes.
Just the opposite
Not only that, they say the also found, after obtaining evidence that additives increased toxicity, that tobacco scientists adjusted the protocol for presenting their results in a way that obscured these increases.
“We discovered these post-hoc changes in analytical protocols after the industry scientists found that the additives increased cigarette toxicity by increasing the number of fine particles in the cigarette smoke that cause heart and other diseases,” said senior author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF.
Glantz says that when scientists conducted their own analysis by studying additives per cigarette – following Philip Morris’ original protocol -- they found that 15 carcinogenic chemicals increased by 20 percent or more. Additionally, in the independent study, the researchers discovered the reason behind Philip Morris’ failure to identify many toxic effects in animal studies: its studies were too small.
“The experiment was too small in terms of the number of rats analyzed to statistically detect important changes in biological effects,” Glantz said. “Philip Morris underpowered its own studies.”
Glantz said the results of Project MIX were published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. He said an examination of the publication found that its editor and many members of its editorial board had financial ties to the tobacco industry.
The UCSF study was supported by the National Cancer Institute.