Light Cigarettes Encourage Smoking

<"">Light cigarettes are not all they’re cracked up to be when it comes to quitting smoking, according to an emerging study, says WebMD. Experts found that the switch to what Web MD described as “light,” “ultra-light,” or “low-tar” cigarettes could actually undermine well-intentioned smoking cessation attempts.

Most cigarettes—about 84 percent, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—are labeled as lower in tar and nicotine, reported WebMD.

The study found smokers who switched from “full-flavored” cigarettes to lower tar or lighter cigarettes had to make more tries to quit and were unable to quit in about half of the cases, said WebMD. “We found that switching for any reason to a so-called lighter cigarette appears to be associated with a lower chance of quitting, especially when people switched with the intent of quitting smoking,” study researcher Hilary Tindle, MD, PhD, told WebMD. Tindle and her team from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care looked at a 2003 survey of smokers sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute; the sample included some 31,000 current and former smokers, said WebMD.

According to WebMD, health officials have known that cigarette-packaging indicating lowered tar or nicotine or as being light, mild, or ultra-light, do not offer reduced opportunities for lung cancer, heart disease, or other smoking-related diseases. According to established evidence, smokers who smoke so-called lighter cigarettes generally smoke more and inhale more intensely, reported WebMD.

Until now, research has not determined switching to lighter cigarettes affected quit smoking rates, noted WebMD. The recent research found the following, said WebMD:

* Of those surveyed, a little over 12,000—38 percent—said they had, at one time or another, switched to a lighter cigarette.
* Of those who switched to lighter cigarettes, most—58 percent—were likelier to have attempted to quit smoking in the year just before taking the survey.
* Of those who switched to lighter cigarettes—when compared to smokers who did not switch—the likelihood of quitting smoking was 46 percent decreased.
* Those smokers who switched to lighter cigarettes to improve their health were the least likeliest to quit smoking.

Tindle concluded that switching to lighter cigarettes could actually hamper quit smoking efforts. “Unfortunately, a substantial proportion of smokers and nonsmokers still believe these cigarettes are healthier even though we have known for many years this is not true,” quoted WebMD.

This June, President Barack Obama signed The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law allowing the federal government broad authority over tobacco products and regulators to control packaging and marketing and how much nicotine—the addictive component in cigarettes—is added in tobacco products, explained the Washington Post previously.

In addition to bans on flavored cigarettes and a number of other mandates, in July 2010, verbiage including the words “light,” “low,” or “mild” will be banned from tobacco product marketing. Sadly, according to Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, industry is trying to skirt the law, said WebMD. “The products will no doubt remain, but they will be called something else, Myers told WebMD. RJ Reynolds Tobacco spokesman David Howard said light cigarettes will be sold in blue packaging, while ultra-lights will be orange, a practice followed in other countries, said WebMD. Industry claims the color differentiations better enable consumers to determine what they are purchasing; however, critics disagree. Myers told WebMD the marketing change is simply another way to mislead consumers.

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