The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed into law in 2009, prohibits the use of the terms “light,” “low,” “mild,” and other similar descriptors in tobacco product labels or advertising.
Starting June 22, 2010, the law prohibits manufacturers from producing any tobacco products labeled or advertised as “light,” “low,” “mild,” or any other similar descriptor. However, manufacturers are permitted to distribute existing products until July 21.
On July 22, 2010, the law prohibits the tobacco industry from distributing or introducing into the U.S. market any tobacco products for which the labeling or advertising contains the descriptors “light,” “low,” “mild,” or any similar descriptor, irrespective of the date of manufacture. However, consumers may continue to see some products with these descriptors for sale in stores after July 22 because retailers are permitted to sell off their inventory.
A Brief History
Cigarettes labeled “light,” “low,” or “mild” are often called “low-yield” because they deliver less than 15 mg of tar when measured on a standardized smoking machine. Starting in the 1960s (after a 1964 historic Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health), cigarette manufacturers made changes in cigarette design to achieve and promote low-yield cigarettes. Design changes included adding different size and density filters, ventilation holes to dilute the smoke measured, and chemical additives in the paper and/or tobacco. Advertisements implied that the low-yield cigarettes (i.e., those labeled “light,” “low,” or “mild”) were safer than regular cigarettes.
However, there is no convincing scientific evidence to indicate that low-yield cigarettes are safe. No cigarette design changes have resulted in a decrease in the diseases caused by smoking.
In response to the new law, some manufacturers have switched to color-coded packaging to market cigarettes formerly labeled “light,” “low,” or “mild.” For example, one manufacturer is using lighter-colored packaging to represent the former “light” brand, and another is using the term “gold” to replace the term “light.”
Protecting Public Health
Prohibiting the use of terms like “light,” “low,” and “mild” is an important step to help protect the public health. Many smokers mistakenly believe that cigarettes marketed with these descriptors cause fewer health problems than other cigarettes. Removing “light,” “low,” “mild,” and other similar descriptors will help ensure that tobacco product labels and advertising are not misleading.
Although many smokers believe that these products are less harmful, studies have found that:
Smokers who use light cigarettes do not reduce their risk for developing smoking-related cancers and other diseases.
Switching to light cigarettes does not help smokers quit.
Switching to light cigarettes may actually decrease the motivation to quit (i.e., many smokers may have switched to light brands instead of quitting because they mistakenly believe that they are less harmful than “regular” or “full-flavor” cigarettes).
Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking.
All cigarettes are harmful to your health-regardless of their taste, smell, label, or packaging color. There is no such thing as a safe cigarette.
Help to Quit
Millions of former smokers have successfully quit. In fact, today there are more former smokers than smokers. Local assistance in quitting can be obtained from your local physician. Milwaukee and Waukesha County residents have a number of groups that meet regularly in the quest of quitting their tobacco need. Local Milwaukee and Waukesha County hospitals run “quit programs” frequently throughout the year.