Jan. 8 2004
Washington, DC — A new study published in the January 10, 2004, issue of the British Medical Journal finds that smoking cigarettes labeled as low-tar and ultra-low-tar do not reduce a smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer compared to smoking regular brands. Especially in its finding that not even ultra-low-tar cigarettes pose a reduced risk of lung cancer, this study adds to the already powerful evidence that the marketing of low and ultra-low-tar cigarettes has been a massive consumer health fraud perpetuated by the tobacco companies. As a landmark November 2001 report by the National Cancer Institute concluded, the marketing of these products as delivering less tar and reducing smokers’ health risks is “deceptive” and smokers’ choice of these products as an alternative to quitting makes this deception an “urgent public health issue.”
Like the NCI report, the new study includes powerful messages for both smokers and federal policy makers. The message to smokers is clear and simple: If you are concerned about your health, there is only one solution – to quit smoking. There is no significant health difference between any of the cigarettes currently on the market. Misunderstanding of the health implications of terms such as “light”, “ultra-light” and “low-tar” has led millions of Americans to use these products thinking they were safer. It is critical that smokers understand this is not true.
The message to members of Congress is also clear: There is an urgent need to pass legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority to regulate tobacco products, including the authority to ban deceptive terms like “light”, “ultra-light” and “low-tar” and to verify and regulate other “reduced risk” claims about tobacco products such as those the tobacco companies are now making with increasing frequency. A growing number of countries, including those of the European Union, Israel, and Brazil have already banned deceptive terms such as “light.” American consumers deserve the same protection. But banning these terms is not enough. The FDA must have effective and comprehensive authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products to prevent a repeat of the light/low-tar public health disaster with a new generation of deceptively marketed tobacco products.