Why low-tar cigarettes don’t work & how the tobacco industry fools the smoking public

Thursday 18 March 1999

Press release: 18th March 1999 – Embargo 00:01 GMT

ASH and Imperial Cancer Research Fund release further evidence [1] from confidential tobacco industry documents showing that the tobacco companies have deliberately made and marketed low tar cigarettes knowing that they would fool smokers into a false sense of security. Low tar cigarettes give low tar readings when measured on machines, but according to the Ministry of Health in British Columbia: Many smokers think that ‘light’ cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes, and that by smoking ‘light’ cigarettes they will inhale fewer cancer-causing chemicals, or less nicotine. B.C.’s new smoking tests have shown how wrong this belief can be. The reports filed by the tobacco companies show that light cigarettes are likely to deliver as many (or more) poisons and toxins to smokers as regular cigarettes.

The release of the substantially updated 1999 edition of this report is timed to coincide with the polling research undertaken by the Health Education Authority showing that many smokers wrongly expect low-tar cigarettes to be less harmful [2]. The report contains over 20 revealing and damning extracts from tobacco industry documents.

Dr. Martin Jarvis of Imperial Cancer Research Fund said: “We know that low-tar cigarettes offer no meaningful benefits to smokers and may even be more harmful. The biggest threat to the tobacco companies is that people will quit and leave the market for good — these cigarettes are there to persuade smokers there is a healthy way to remain as loyal customers.”

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said: “This is not just an accidental misunderstanding — so-called low tar cigarettes are the result of a scandalous marketing and product design strategy devised by tobacco companies in which smokers have been fooled and regulators side-stepped. It’s only because they are exempted from all normal consumer protection legislation that the tobacco industry can get away with it.”

ASH and Imperial Cancer Research Fund have called on the European Union to ban low-tar branding such as, ‘Light’, ‘Mild’, ‘Ultra’; etc. because this branding is an implied, but unjustified, health claim. “Marlboro Lights and Silk Cut Ultra are selling a false promise, and we want them taken off the market” said Bates.

[1] Dr. Martin Jarvis, and Clive Bates. Low Tar: Why low-tar cigarettes don’t work and how the tobacco industry has fooled the smoking public (pdf). 1999 Edition. 18thMarch 1999.

[2] Health Education Authority, Smokers duped in Low-tar ‘Con’, 18thMarch 1999.



Contact Clive Bates, Director (020) 7739 5902
Tonya Gillis, Imperial Cancer Research Fund 0171 269 3614 0498 806839 (mbl)

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