From Tobacco Products
Quest® cigarettes are a brand of low-nicotine cigarettes. Cigarette contain genetically modified tobacco which is nicotine free due to removal of a key gene for nicotine synthesis.
Regular and menthol are manufactured with three progressively lower nicotine levels and marketed as allowing smokers to "step-down" nicotine levels:
Quest 1 has 0.6 milligrams of nicotine
Quest 2 halves that amount
Quest 3 contains trace amounts of nicotine
- Cigarettes made from tobacco that is "virtually nicotine free" yet retains all the tobacco taste.
- Can help smokers quit but not a cessation aid.
- Company representatives report that the Quest cigarettes taste and smoke like other cigarettes.
- They caution that the product is designed to help smokers cut back on nicotine and not to quit smoking altogether.
Product Design Features
- Nicotine yield: (FTC method) low nicotine: 0.6 mg/cig; extra-low nicotine: 0.3 mg/cig; nicotine-free: 0.05 mg/cig
- Tar yield: FTC method, 10 mg/cig across all varieties
- NNN and NNK in raw tobacco lower than conventional brands
- Filter ventilation: not yet conducted or not available
Quest cigarettes, introduced in 2003, are a brand of low-nicotine cigarettes produced by Vector Tobacco, Inc. Though the cigarettes appear traditional in design, they are actually manufactured in three different varieties, each with a varying level of nicotine as measured by machine yield testing. Quest 1, with .60 mg of nicotine, has 17 percent less nicotine than an average light cigarette. Quest 2, with only .30 mg of nicotine, has 58 percent less; and Quest 3, with only .05 mg of nicotine, is virtually nicotine-free. As such, they are marketed as enabling smokers to progressively reduce levels of nicotine exposure via a “step-down” approach, eventually reaching a stage of “nicotine-free smoking.”
Quest cigarettes are manufactured from genetically modified tobacco plants, developed by Vector with the help of Mark Conkling, PhD, former North Carolina State molecular biologist and researcher. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Dr. Conkling identified the gene that produces nicotine in the tobacco plant's roots. He succeeded in shutting down the nicotine gene and blocking formation of the nicotine, the company says, without affecting the viability of the plant or the taste of the cigarette.
- A Nicotine Delivery Device Without the Nicotine? Tobacco Industry Development of Low Nicotine Cigarettes
- Lower Nicotine Cigarettes May Not Lower Harm
- Tobacco specific nitrosamines in new tobacco products
- Smokers Assume False Sense Of Safety From Ads For Low Nicotine Quest Cigarettes, Penn Study Shows
- Initially introduced in 2003 in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Arizona, before introduction to a broader US market
Advertising and Selling Messages
- Spending upwards of $25 million on a high-impact print advertising campaign
- Price promotion: buy-one-get-one-free campaign, only for the “low nicotine” product (i.e. Quest 1)
- Slogans: “Real Cigarettes, Real Premium Tobacco, Real Smoking Enjoyment” and “Make It Your Quest”
According to promotional materials provided by Liggett Vector Brands, prior to Quest’s introduction, Vector Tobacco spent upwards of $25 million on a high-impact print advertising campaign, including direct mailings, regional ads in high-profile consumer magazines, and newspaper ads in selected metropolitan markets. Vector also featured a “buy-one-get-one-free” campaign, but only for the “low nicotine” product (i.e. Quest 1). In addition, the company made promises to fund research on how its new cigarette affects smokers’ nicotine intake and urge to smoke 
- Offered in three different hard pack varieties, based on levels of nicotine (low nicotine designated as “1”, extra-low nicotine designated as “2”,’ and nicotine-free designated as “3”)
- Price comparable to major premium brands
- Available in both mentholated and non-mentholated forms
Use and the Consumer
- Available in January 2003 in major retailers throughout New York,New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Arizona
Smoke Emissions and Human Use
- FTC (standard) method: 0.05-0.6 mg/cig nicotine; 10 mg/cig tar
- Massachusetts: not yet conducted or not available
- Health Canada: not yet conducted or not available
- Topography: compensatory smoking patterns observed when smoking lower-nicotine levels, suggesting a harm-increasing effect
- Human exposure: not yet conducted or not available
There have been no specific claims made regarding the reduced risk status of Vector’s Quest. However, because Quest cigarettes are marketed as a strategy for smokers to gradually diminish the nicotine they receive from cigarettes in order to reach a nicotine-free stage of smoking, concern regarding Vector Tobacco’s marketing of Quest cigarettes has been raised. Although the cigarettes do offer reduced nicotine levels, the levels of tar delivered are comparable to those of traditional tobacco products; thus, Quest cigarettes pose significant health risks.
Evidence has shown that smokers misinterpret marketing information for low yield cigarettes O’Conner et al, 2005). Shadel and colleagues(2006) assessed beliefs about Quest cigarettes following exposure to a single print advertisement among 200 regular smokers who had never heard of the brand itself. They found that smokers made several specific false inferences about Quest cigarettes after exposure(i.e., lower in tar, healthier, less likely to cause cancer).
Strasser et al. (2007) showed that smokers who switch to Quest compensate for lower nicotine by taking larger puffs. The lower nicotine versions of Quest produced greater exposure to CO. Vector makes no assertions that the cigarette reduces carbon monoxide or the chemicals that increase the risk of cancer.
The limited evidence suggests that Quest does not reduce exposure.
- In vitro or in vivo testing: not yet conducted or not available
- Surgeon General warnings
- No sales to minors
- Subject to State and Federal cigarette taxes
- No known organized community campaigns