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Inside a laboratory in suburban Southampton, a corporate display board includes a portrait of Paracelsus, the 16th-century Swiss “father of toxicology”. It sits above his most memorable adage: “All things are poison … the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.” Next to this is the logo of British American Tobacco (BAT), whose cigarettes have poisoned to death more people than it would probably care to calculate.

The lab, part of the tobacco company’s sprawling research and development centre, is a rare indoor space where smoking is legal. Marianna Gaca, a BAT biologist, shows me a robot.