Used to be that cigarettes labeled "low-tar," "light," and "mild" abounded. Several people would smoke these cigarettes thinking that they were smoking a 'safer' cigarette.
In truth, the cigarettes weren't safer, and when the federal Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act passed in 2009, it granted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products.
One of the law's provisions was to prohibit tobacco companies from using the terms "light," "low," and "mild" in product labeling and marketing. The provision went into effect in June 2010.
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Tobacco companies responded to the law by using color-coded packaging (such as gold or silver) on previously marketed products and selling them to consumers who may continue to believe that these cigarettes are not as harmful as other cigarettes. However, light cigarettes are no safer than regular cigarettes.1
Tobacco companies started using the light, low and mild labels in response to the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General's report linking smoking to cancer.
In 1964, approximately 42% of American adults smoked. That figure began to fall after the report was released and by 2009, 17.9% of American adults smoked.2
In an attempt to keep sales up when the smoking rate declined, tobacco companies changed the design of cigarettes - adding filters, ventilation holes, and additives.3
They also marketed these cigarettes as "low-yield" cigarettes that deliver less than 15 milligrams of tar when tested on a smoking machine in an attempt to imply that these cigarettes were less harmful.3
However, people don't smoke cigarettes like a machine, so they may still get a high yield of tar from a "light" cigarette.1
Most smokers are addicted to nicotine. Consequently they compensate when smoking "low-yield" cigarettes in order to take in more nicotine than estimated by a smoking machine.
- Many smokers block ventilation holes, thus inhaling more tar and nicotine than measured by machines.
- Many smokers inhale longer, harder, and more frequently when smoking "low-yield" cigarettes to get more nicotine.
- Smokers may get as much or more tar and nicotine from cigarettes with "low-yield" ratings as from regular cigarettes because of the way they compensate when smoking them.4
Even though you won't see cigarettes labeled "light," "low," or "mild" anymore, tobacco companies are still selling the same cigarettes - just in different packages.
Remember, there is no such thing as a safe cigarette. The only proven way to reduce the health risks associated with smoking is to quit.
For more information, contact:
Tobacco Free Nebraska
P.O. Box 95026
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-5026
Phone: (402) 471-2101