Cracking down on deception
FDA takes action against online tobacco retailers who continue “light” and “low” ruse
Posted by: Editor | May 26, 2011
Untamed Internet tobacco vendors have just heard from the sheriff.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued 11 warning letters to online retailers for illegally marketing cigarettes described with terms such as "light" and "low" that deceive smokers by implying they are less risky than other brands. They are not.
The FDA review of websites selling tobacco products uncovered the use of terms such as extra light, premium light, super light, and ultra light — despite a prohibition on these terms that went into effect last June. The new law giving the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products banned the marketing of cigarettes using these descriptions. Decades of research showed that smokers commonly perceived cigarettes labeled this way as being less harmful, though they are not.
The prohibition on "light and low" marketing seeks to end one of the deadliest consumer frauds in history. For decades, the tobacco industry responded to growing health concerns about smoking by using these terms to promote the falsehood that some cigarette brands are less harmful, and to discourage smokers from quitting. This deception has had devastating consequences for public health.
Before the ban, more than half of daily American smokers — including nearly two-thirds of women who smoke — said they smoked brands that have been marketed as "light" or "ultra-light."
The FDA's warning letters send a clear signal that the era of blatant deception is over. If the retailers fail to end the illegal promotions, they face additional sanctions including fines, orders to stop selling tobacco products, and seizure of their tobacco products.