Cigarette Branding Found to be Misleading

Branding being used on some <"">cigarettes may have consumers under the false impression that such products offer safer alternatives. According a study cited by the BBC, when words such as “smooth”, “silver,” or “gold” are used, people falsely believe the products are healthier and that it is easier to quit smoking with those cigarettes.

The survey looked of 1,300 participants—800 adults and 500 teens—who were shown branded and plain cigarette packages; when presented with the plainly packaged cigarettes, those surveyed no longer believed the cigarettes were healthier or easier to quit, said the BBC. The survey was conducted by researchers at the University of Nottingham, in Great Britain.

Participants were shown pairs of cigarette packs and were asked to make some comparisons between the two, such as either what they were like or were perceived to be like concerning “taste, tar levels, health risk, attractiveness, how easy they would be to give up, and how attractive they would be to someone choosing to smoke for the first time,” said the BBC. The study reveled that the participants believed that cigarettes packaged in lighter coloring was less harmful or had less tar, according to the BBC. The participants also falsely believed that when labeled with words such as “smooth,” as was the case with eight brands, that those cigarettes were less harmful, reported the BBC.

The European Union (EU), said the BBC, since 2002, has deemed it illegal for cigarette makers to use “trademarks, text or any sign to suggest that one tobacco product is less harmful than another.” The EU also bans phrases that include the words “low tar,” “light,” and “mild,” noted the BBC.

In the United States, President Barack Obama signed The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law in late June. The law will allow the federal government broad authority over tobacco products and will also allow regulators to control cigarette packaging and marketing as well as how much nicotine—the addictive component in cigarettes—is added in tobacco products, explained the Washington Post previously. By July 2010, verbiage including the words “light,” “low,” or “mild” will be banned from tobacco product marketing in the US and must “carry larger and stronger warning labels,” among other restrictions according to a prior USA Today report.

Portions of the law are being fought by some cigarette makers in the US in court—such as . R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Lorillard Inc.—arguing that 1st amendment issues were not appropriately addressed. Proponents of the law cite the hundreds of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in health care linked to cigarette smoking annually.

Professor David Hammond, of the Department of Health Studies and Gerontology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, said: “The truth is that all cigarettes are equally hazardous, regardless of what colour the pack is or what words appear on it. These tactics are giving consumers a false sense of reassurance that simply does not exist,” quoted the BBC.

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