AP Tobacco Writer
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Cigarette maker Lorillard Inc. has banned animal testing following discussions with an animal rights group that has raised concerns over industry studies in which animals were forced to inhale cigarette smoke, eat tobacco and have cigarette tar painted on their skin.
The nation's third-biggest tobacco company and maker of Newport-brand cigarettes confirmed the new policy to The Associated Press on Monday, which says it will no longer conduct or commission animal research unless it's necessary to meet regulatory requirements. The Greensboro, N.C.,-based company said it hasn't done any animal testing in about three years.
Newer techniques, such as in-vitro testing, in which experiments are done in test tubes, and computer modeling, can be used to test for toxicity instead of testing on animals, said Dr. Neil Wilcox, Lorillard's chief compliance officer, in a statement.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said it has shareholder resolutions pending with No. 2 U.S. tobacco company Reynolds American Inc. and Philip Morris International Inc., the seller of Marlboro and other cigarette brands overseas. The group also said it is currently in discussions with Richmond-based Altria Group Inc., owner of the nation's biggest tobacco company, Philip Morris USA.
In its proposals, PETA cites studies from Lorillard and the other tobacco companies in which rats and mice were given food containing smokeless tobacco or locked in containers and forced to breathe cigarette smoke for hours at a time. The animals, which were intentionally bred to have an increased cancer risk, were killed and dissected at the end of the experiments, PETA said.
According to its website, Philip Morris International says it restricts animal studies to occasions where no other alternatives are available and adheres to internationally established best practices for animal care to ensure that animals are treated humanely and responsibly. Altria's website includes a similar statement and says the vast majority of the company's internal and external scientific research doesn't involve animal testing.
Reynolds American took a similar stance in a statement Monday but said the company is committed to tobacco harm reduction and believes it "must reserve the flexibility to perform animal testing" if it is relevant and necessary to achieving approval of tobacco products from the Food and Drug Administration.
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.
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