Washington Diary: Hit list is a burning issue in cigarette war - Andreas Frew reports from the heady heights of Capitol Hill
* 30 April 1994
* From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
* ANDREAS FREW
It turns out that a decade ago, tobacco companies struck a peculiar deal with Congress. Anti-smoking Congressmen wanted the tobacco companies to list all additives in cigarettes so consumers could see them and assess the risks. Tobacco companies countered that listing the additives would let their competitors know how they achieved their distinctive flavour. Besides, they said, we don't add anything harmful.
In the end, there was a compromise. Tobacco companies would provide their list of ingredients to the Department of Health and Human Services, which would tell Congress if any of the items were dangerous. But the list would be kept in a safe at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and anybody revealing it would be guilty of a felony.
That situation did not change until early this month, when a reporter for National Public Radio obtained the names of 13 items on the list. Far from being benign, several of them were described by Congressman Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, as 'so toxic you could not dump them in a landfill under the federal environmental laws'.