Collection: Low Tar
Claims of low ‘tar,’ less ‘tar,’ or even lowest ‘tar’ have been circulating in cigarette advertisements for decades. This theme features ads which revolve around deceptive low tar claims which try to out-do each other, some going as far as to claim less than 1 mg of tar per cigarette. By ‘tar,’ tobacco companies are referring to the brown, sticky accumulation of chemicals amassed when tobacco is burned. This residue is considered to be one of the most damaging components of smoking, as it contains a multitude of identified carcinogens and causes harmful build-up in the lungs. It is therefore no surprise that, early on, tobacco companies began to make their cigarettes appear less harmful by advertising reduced tar levels. Low tar cigarettes are intended to keep concerned smokers from quitting by providing these smokers with what appears to be a healthy alternative. Unfortunately, lower tar ratings have no bearing on the safety of the brand in question. As internal tobacco documents have revealed, tobacco companies have been fully knowledgeable that lower tar cigarettes were not actually safer or healthier.
It was not until quite recently that any action was taken in the United States to address the deceptive and dangerous mislabeling. However, when the FDA was granted regulatory authority over tobacco products in 2009, these concerns came to the forefront of regulation. As of July 2010, the words “mild,” “low,” or “light” are not to be used on tobacco products, as these words cause consumers to underestimate their health risks. This new regulation means that brands previously marketed as “light” or “low-tar” can no longer include these words on their packaging or advertising.
Unsurprisingly, tobacco manufacturers have figured out a creative way to escape this regulation. Now, they rely on different colored packages to indicate whether a certain product is light, ultra-light, or full-flavor. The colors vary slightly among brands, but generally adhere to the following standards: 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. Camel, for example, replaced their “Camel Lights” product with “Camel Blue.” Philip Morris stuck with the idea that lighter shades indicate a “lighter” cigarette, and thus Marlboro Lights became Marlboro Gold, and Marlboro Ultra-Lights became Marlboro Silver. Likewise, R.J. Reynolds’ Salem Ultra-Lights became “Salem Silver Box.” The FDA has regulatory authority to demand that tobacco companies discontinue their color branding techniques in the future.