Project CC

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Project CC was an R.J. Reynolds "safer cigarette" project. "CC" stood for "Controversial Constituents."

This 208-page R.J. Reynolds (RJR) "Privileged and Confidential attorney work product" provides insight into how a tobacco company's research and development (R&D) activities are overseen by attorneys, who evaluate how a product affects the company's exposure to future liability claims. It also shows the difficulties a tobacco company faces in attempting to make and market a cigarette they claim is "safer." In this document, attorneys for RJR's law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue evaluate RJR's development of, and ideas for marketing a new cigarette called "Project CC." "CC" stood for "Controversial Constituents." The goal was to produce a cigarette that utilized a carbon filter to "reduce certain compounds in cigarette smoke that are allegedly potentially harmful to human health."(Page 16, Bates No: 515873584 of RJR 515873569/3776)

Such a product, said Jones Day, put the company in a difficult spot when it came to liability and regulatory concerns. If RJR developed and marketed CC, the company could face difficulty both if it announced that the cigarette was safer, and if they failed to do it:

...if Reynolds were to market CC without any claims regarding CC's ability to reduce controversial compounds, it would increase [the company's] chances of avoiding regulatory action. By doing so, however, Reynolds may also increase its exposure to design defect and fraudulent concealment claims in the smoking and health litigation. Plaintiffs could argue, for example, that CC is a 'safer' design, but because Reynolds never informed consumers that it was 'safer,' consumers were denied the opportunity to make a knowledgeable choice to switch to the 'safer' design. Conversely, if Reynolds aggressively touts CC's potential long-term health benefits (or perhaps even its potential short-term health benefits), it will probably increase the likelihood of regulatory action and may also increase Reynolds' exposure to other types of legal claims, such as breach of express warranty and misrepresentation claims. In short, the marketing of CC puts Reynolds 'between a rock and a hard place.'

The lawyers also proposed and evaluated alternative ways that RJR could potentially communicate "personal concern" information about "Project CC" to the public:

Reynolds may be able to minimize the risk of regulatory action and possibly minimize its liability in the smoking and health litigation by using 'watered down' 'personal concern' claims and taste claims, but such claims are less appealing to consumers and, as discussed in the legal issues section, 'watered down' claims also have significant downsides in defending against alternative design and fraudulent concealment claims...

The lawyers also helped strategize ways that RJR could disseminate information about "Project CC" so that the information would appear to emanate from a source other than the tobacco company itself. They called this the "indirect approach":

Under the 'indirect approach,' Reynolds would attempt to communicate the 'personal concern' benefits of Project CC to consumers by means other than traditional direct-to-consumer advertising. The goal of the 'indirect approach' would be to create consumer demand for a 'safer' cigarette by persuading sources outside of Reynolds to recognize and publicize the 'personal concern' benefits of Project CC... The first 'indirect' strategy calls for Reynolds to make information concerning the CC technology available to regulatory agencies and scientific groups in the hope that they will recognize, confirm and communicate to consumers the 'personal concern' benefits of the CC technology. For example, Reynolds is considering providing samples of the product, analytical chemistry test results, and information concerning the CC technology to the FTC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and members of the scientific community, such as Dietrich Hoffmann, so that they can test the product and comment on its benefits. This strategy would be implemented either before the product is marketed or after the product is marketed with non-aggressive 'personal concern' and taste claims (e.q., 'smoother taste' or 'less irritancy').

The lawyers further proposed a scenario to manipulate the media into disseminating information on (and creating demand for) the product, and into pressuring the FTC "to accept the concept of a 'safer' cigarette":

The second 'indirect' strategy calls for using the 'news media' to communicate CC's 'personal concern' benefits to consumers. Under this strategy, the media would be made aware of the CC technology and its benefits through means other than advertising. The media would then, hopefully, report the benefits to the public thereby generating consumer interest in and demand for the product. The media attention and accompanying consumer demand would, in turn, put pressure on the FTC and others to accept the concept of a 'safer' cigarette.

The document provides a detailed case study of how attorneys help guide tobacco industry research, development and marketing activities around the issue of smoking and health, and shows the effort put into protecting the industry from exposure to liability and regulatory actions in these activities.

Title: Working Issue and Legal Analysis of Project CC
Author: RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company/Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue
Date: 19940621 (June 21, 1994)
Type: Report, table
Bates No. 515873569/3776
Collection: R.J. Reynolds

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