Sep. 30 2003
Washington, D.C. — A new study, published in the September issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research, reveals that low-tar cigarettes may have undermined the motivation to quit smoking among those smokers most interested in quitting. The study found that smokers with the greatest desire to quit were more likely than other smokers to switch to lower tar brands, but no more likely to attempt or succeed at smoking cessation.
This study adds to the already significant evidence that the tobacco companies' deceptive marketing of low-tar cigarettes deterred health-conscious smokers from quitting entirely. Previous studies, including a landmark National Cancer Institute report issued in November 2001, concluded that low-tar cigarettes are no less hazardous or less addictive than regular brands because smokers smoke them differently to obtain the same level of nicotine, such as by blocking ventilation holes, inhaling more deeply or increasing the number of cigarettes smoked. The results have been disastrous for individual smokers and for public health. As a result of switching rather than quitting, smokers of low-tar cigarettes were exposed to the same amount of dangerous toxins and did not reduce their risk of developing lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other smoking-caused diseases.
This study underscores the need for Congress to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority to regulate tobacco products, including health claims made about them. The low-tar public health disaster could very well repeat itself as the tobacco industry rolls out a new generation of tobacco products with unproven "reduced risk" claims such as "all of the taste… less of the toxins" (Brown & Williamson's Advance cigarettes) and "Reduced carcinogens. Premium taste" (Vector's Omni cigarettes). The FDA must have authority to prevent claims that are misleading or unsubstantiated, that discourage current tobacco users from quitting, or that encourage new users to start. The experience with low-tar cigarettes should serve as a warning that the tobacco industry cannot be trusted to act responsibly without real, loophole-free government regulation to prevent the tobacco industry from continuing to mislead consumers.