In 1957 the BAT research department used code words like "Zephyr" for lung cancer and for the carcinogens thought responsible for lung cancer. At the 1962 Southampton research conference, there had been an enormous display of optimism and hope about the possible development of a safe cigarette. Sir Charles Ellis declared that, if cigarettes actually cause cancer, industry scientists would find a way to fix the problem.
Throughout the 1960s reports of industry-sponsored R&D activities brimmed with energy and enthusiasm for getting on with solving the problem. The problem proved intractable, however. Certainly, it is a technically difficult problem to solve. In addition, any genuine solution contained an inescapable admission of harm from conventional products. By 1973 B&W was unwilling to participate even a little bit in work on tobacco substitutes. By 1980 an R&D scientist at B&W regarded work on tobacco smoke inhalation as "dangerous." In 1985 a B&W executive declared that the only product innovations of interest were those that gave a competitive advantage. If, by chance, they also reduced toxicity, that was a bonus, but it was not a reason to make the change.
While the internal R&D work shifted over the years from a gallant acceptance of the challenge to a cynical acceptance of an inevitably harmful product, the external posture of the company remained defiant. Publicly, the smoking and health question remained an open one, a controversy. Privately, the controversy was not whether Viceroy, Kool, Raleigh, and Belair are dangerous. The controversy was over what to do about the danger. For many years the companies tried, privately and quietly, to make things better. As it became evident that a safe cigarette was not achievable, the industry turned to creating a false controversy about the scientific evidence that smoking is dangerous.