Nicotine and addiction. The Brown and Williamson documents

JAMA. 1995 Jul 19;274(3):225-33.


Objective: To learn how nicotine has been regarded by a major tobacco company.

Data sources: Documents from Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation (B&W), the British American Tobacco Company (BAT), and other tobacco interests provided by an anonymous source, obtained from Congress, and received from the private papers of a former BAT officer.

Study selection: All available materials, including confidential reports regarding research and internal memoranda exchanged between tobacco industry lawyers.

Conclusions: During a period of 22 years (1962 to 1984), employees of B&W and BAT conducted research and commented on the pharmacology of nicotine. They consistently regarded nicotine as the pharmacological agent that explained tobacco use. In the early part of the period under study, officials of the companies wrote about nicotine addiction explicitly. Inhalation of cigarette smoke by the consumer was recognized throughout the period as necessary for the normal function of a cigarette. The documents contain little indication that research was conducted on either the taste or the flavor of nicotine. The documents reveal an intention on the part of B&W and its corporate parent to affect the function of the body with nicotine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce
  • Humans
  • Industry* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Liability, Legal
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Nicotiana*
  • Nicotine* / pharmacology
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Public Health
  • Research
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • Truth Disclosure
  • United States


  • Nicotine