The Multinational Monitor


T H E    L A W R E N C E    S U M M E R S    M E M O R I A L    A W A R D

On Rebellion and Root Beer Cigarettes

THE OCTOBER 1997 WINNER of the prestigious Lawrence Summers Award* is British American Tobacco, for its proposal to market root beer-flavored cigarettes.

The following is transcribed from an unsigned, undated, handwritten memo from the files of the British American Tobacco Company. It is believed to have been written in the 1970's or 1980's.

The memo was released in Minnesota and was subsequently made public Wednesday, August 13, 1997 in a West Palm Beach, Florida courtroom. (A kestrel is a small bird of prey that feeds on rodents and other birds.)

Project Kestrel


To develop a brand which "breaks the rules," to appeal to a new generation and shock their parents, to make conventional brands look bland and weary.

There seems to be an opportunity to explore many unconventional routes towards this target, without the need to understand why they may be popular.

It was felt that the literate youth of today, being very image-oriented, would require a brand of cigarettes which was not an attempt to match any other brands, like Marlboro for instance, but which was completely unconventional, which set new standards encouraging their rebellion, not necessarily just against parents certainly against the market norm. It would respond to the person's individuality with the possibility of being an alternative to drugs. It was felt that the cigarette should incorporate some sort of "kick" of a similar nature to the Coca-Cola "kick," giving the cigarette a physiological effect. A possible route for this would be to incorporate the AMTECH technology, using ammonia to generate nicotine enhancement during PH distortion to liberate nicotine. Another route would be to use the FLITE technology to inject various flavours into the blend. These flavours would be new and unconventional and probably foul-tasting to the average smoker.

Two flavours which were discussed as options were Root Beer & Brazilian Fruit Juice, both of which tend to appeal to the younger generation while being rejected by their parents.

The foul-tasting aspect was discussed at great length. It was felt that the rebellion aspect would be encouraged if the cigarette not only tasted horrible, but also had a totally distinctive aroma characteristic, possibly enhanced, by the use of high sidestream paper. The cigarette paper could also be studied with respect to changing its texture and also its colour, and an alternative possibility is to have various different flavoured cigarettes, all individually wrapped in different coloured paper, all in the same packet.

The cigarette should have a totally new brand name so that no preconceived ideas could be formed, and should reflect the durable youth values discussed (rebellion, glamour of danger, etc.). The type of packaging was also discussed and it was felt that the pack should be in some way distinctive without being oversensational. It was felt that the youth of today tend to associate with the colour black, so it would be important to distinguish the black pack from other brands such as JPS, Roffles, etc.

In short then, anything goes. The cigarettes should not be judged in any way by the normal smoker but purely by the literate youth. A trial and error basis should be incorporated so this may involve many different flavours, most of which would probably be abhorrent to "Mr. Average Smoker."

The text of this and other tobacco industry documents is also available at:

* In a 1991 internal memorandum, then-World Bank economist and current Deputy Secretary of Treasury Lawrence Summers argued for the transfer of waste and dirty industries from industrialized to developing countries. "Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (lesser developed countries)?" Summers wrote. "I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. ... I've always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly under polluted; their air quality is vastly inefficiently low [sic] compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City." Summers later said the memo was meant to be ironic.

# END #