Nov. 5 2001
Washington, DC — The Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Vector Tobacco Ltd. are acting irresponsibly and with disregard for public health by test-marketing new cigarette brands with unverified claims implying that they are safer than other cigarettes. Brown & Williamson is expanding the test marketing of its Advance cigarette to the Indianapolis area with the tagline "All of the taste … less of the toxins," while Vector is launching national advertising for its Omni cigarette with the slogan "Reduced carcinogens. Premium taste." While making statements that will lead consumers to believe that these new products are safer, both Brown & Williamson and Vector admit that they have no evidence that these products actually reduce health risks for smokers.
The tobacco industry's rush to market so-called "reduced risk" products underscores the urgent need for Congress to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration full and effective authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products, including health claims made about them. Tobacco companies should be encouraged to reduce known carcinogens and other toxins in their products, but it is irresponsible for them to make statements implying that these new products are safer until an independent government agency has the authority to verify and regulate these claims. Until the FDA is given such authority, customers smoking these new products are essentially human guinea pigs in a deadly science experiment.
The tobacco industry's new products can only be viewed in the context of the industry's long history of deceiving the public about the health risks posed by tobacco use. Past experience with so-called "reduced risk" products show that they turn out to be marketing frauds aimed at getting more people to start and continue a lethal habit that kills 400,000 Americans every year.
"Light" cigarettes that boasted lower levels of tar in cigarettes were introduced in the 1960s with claims of less risk to smokers. But research has shown that the tobacco companies have long known that lights have not resulted in better health for smokers because smokers of lights tend to compensate by smoking more, inhaling more deeply or blocking ventilation holes.
A more current example is R.J. Reynolds' Eclipse cigarette, which the company is test-marketing with the claim that it "may present smokers with less risk of cancer." A study last year by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that Eclipse actually exposes smokers to the same or increased levels of major carcinogens when compared to other "ultralight" cigarettes.
In February of this year, a report by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, found that none of the "reduced risk" products now on the market have been proven to be less hazardous and may in fact increase the incidence of tobacco-caused disease by deterring current smokers from quitting or encouraging new smokers to start. This report also recommended that tobacco products be regulated like other consumable products to protect the public health.
We call on the tobacco industry to stop making health claims about their products, and we call on Congress to give the FDA full authority to regulate tobacco products and protect the public health.