Date: 1983
Brand: Benson & Hedges
Manufacturer: Philip Morris
Campaign: Ultra Light
Theme: Light, Super & Ultra Light
Keywords: Menthol, Lights, Luxury
Quote: Only 6mg yet rich enough to be called deluxe.


Ultra Light

The ads in this theme outline the deceptive advertisement campaigns for Ultra Light cigarettes, a sub-category of so-called light cigarettes which is supposed to contain even less tar and nicotine. Sometimes referred to simply as Ultra cigarettes, Ultra Lights came into popularity in the early 1980s, and generally reported about half the tar and nicotine content of ordinary Light cigarettes. Many of the ads within this theme present ultra lights as carefree, 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 came in 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 that extended across cigarette brands.

Ultra Light cigarettes, like 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. A 2007 ad for Pall Mall, featured in this theme, reveals that the tobacco companies were prepared for this change: BRIGHT NOW. Introducing Orange Box for Ultra Light. The other designations and their corresponding pack colors are also featured so that consumers could figure out which color indicated which health designation for future purchases.

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

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