A Philip Morris internal memo that calls cigarettes "nicotine delivery systems" may become an important piece of evidence in suits against the tobacco industry and in the Food and Drug Administration's effort to regulate cigarettes as drug delivery devices, critics of the industry said Friday.
The memo, quoted in an article in Friday's Wall Street Journal and subsequently posted by that newspaper on the Internet, says that nicotine is "the primary reason" for smoking, and it compares nicotine with other drugs such as cocaine and morphine.
The memo is not dated, but cites data from as recently as 1992. In recent months, other documents with discussions of cigarettes as delivery vehicles for nicotine have come to light from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.
The 15-page memo contains a proposal for a "safer" cigarette, code-named "Table," that would substantially reduce byproducts such as tar while delivering a satisfying dose of nicotine.
How cigarette manufacturers view their products--and particularly the part played by nicotine--has become a central legal and regulatory issue. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed regulating most tobacco products as drug delivery devices. The industry is being sued by several states seeking reimbursement for Medicaid funds spent on smoking-related diseases, and smokers in New Orleans have filed a large class action lawsuit against cigarette makers.