Date: 1979
Brand: Kool
Manufacturer: Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation
Campaign: Super Light
Theme: Light, Super & Ultra Light
Keywords: Menthol, Super, Light, Tar


Super Light

The ads in this theme outline the deceptive advertisement campaigns for Super Light cigarettes, a sub-category of so-called light cigarettes which are supposed to contain even less tar and nicotine. Common among these ads is futuristic imagery presenting Super Lights as scientifically advanced and thus engineered to be healthier and safer. However, the FDA has determined that all categories of previously-deemed Light cigarettes are no safer than regular cigarettes. In fact, internal industry documents reveal that from the very beginning, tobacco companies were well aware that smokers compensated for the low-nicotine draw from light cigarettes by changing their smoking behaviors.

"Light" cigarettes were marketed at varying degrees of reported "tar" delivery levels. According to a Philip Morris Inter-office memo from 1987, those cigarettes which have tar delivery levels of less than 14 mg are considered "Light," and those with levels under 6 mg are considered "Ultra Light (1). These designations were generic categories which extended across cigarette brands. The "Super Light" designation seems to have been more fluid and less extensive in its reach, though a variety of brands have used the designation over the past few decades.

In the late 1970s, Kool manufactured a "Super Light" category of cigarettes at 9 mg of tar (later 7 mg). Then, in 1981, Brown & Williamson switched this designation from " Kool Super Lights" to Kool Milds. In the late 1980s, the category came back when Philip Morris adopted the "Super Light" designation for its Philip Morris brand in European countries. Then, in the mid-1990s, Lorillard marketed Kent Super Lights (6 mg tar) in foreign markets as their lowest tar-delivery cigarette, alongside Kent Milds KS (11mg) and Kent Special Milds (8 mg). Merit also had a SuperLight cigarette, which its makers claimed tastes as good as the leading ultra lights but has half the tar.

Super Light cigarettes, like Lights and Ultra Lights, are no safer than other cigarettes, but have been misleadingly portrayed as such by tobacco companies. Since the FDA was granted regulatory authority over tobacco products in 2009, it has begun to crack down on these designations, banning tobacco companies from using words such as mild, low, or light as of July, 2010. Unsurprisingly, tobacco manufacturers have figured out a creative way to escape this regulation. Now, they rely on color-coding: red indicates regular; dark green indicates menthol; light green, blue, or gold indicate previously light cigarettes; and silver or orange indicate previously ultra light cigarettes.

1. Weintraub, Jeff. Identification Based on Tar Deliveries. 9 Nov 1987. Philip Morris.

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