Prying open the door to the tobacco industry's secrets about nicotine: the Minnesota Tobacco Trial

JAMA. 1998 Oct 7;280(13):1173-81. doi: 10.1001/jama.280.13.1173.


In 1994 the state of Minnesota filed suit against the tobacco industry. This trial is now history, but its legacy will carry on into the 21st century because of the revelations contained in the millions of pages of previously secret internal tobacco industry documents made public in the trial. In this article, we review representative documents relating to nicotine addiction, low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes, and cigarette design and nicotine manipulation in cigarette manufacture. These documents reveal that for decades, the industry knew and internally acknowledged that nicotine is an addictive drug and cigarettes are the ultimate nicotine delivery device; that nicotine addiction can be perpetuated and even enhanced through cigarette design alterations and manipulations; and that "health-conscious" smokers could be captured by low-tar, low-nicotine products, all the while ensuring the marketplace viability of their products. Appreciation of tobacco industry strategies over the past decades is essential to formulate an appropriate legislative and public policy response. We propose key elements for such legislation and urge no legal or financial immunity for the tobacco industry.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Control
  • Biomedical Research
  • Complicity
  • Disclosure*
  • Humans
  • Liability, Legal*
  • Minnesota
  • Public Policy*
  • Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder*
  • United States