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Tobacco Firms Tried Bio-Engineering Nicotine Levels

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Two researchers have presented evidence that the tobacco industry experimented with genetically engineered tobacco as early as the 1980s to try to control nicotine levels in cigarettes.

A University of California, San Francisco researcher discussed his findings today at the 2002 National Conference on Tobacco or Health.

The researchers pored through thousands of the industry´s internal documents. They found evidence that Philip Morris paid $1.5 million to a biotechnology company in 1986 to help it create a low-nicotine cigarette. That effort failed.

Still, Philip Morris pursued the development of such a cigarette aware that it was likely to be perceived as healthier, although it is not.

So far, only one company has sold cigarettes genetically engineered to be low-nicotine. They haven´t caught on.