Lights Out for Light Cigarettes

(June 22, 2010)

On June 22, 2010, so-called "light" cigarettes will finally be snuffed out. This action marks the one year anniversary of the day President Obama signed a law giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate how the tobacco industry packages and advertises tobacco. This is a major victory for public health, which the American Lung Association has fought for, for two decades.

Marlboro Lights small
Words like “light” may be prohibited, but deceptive packaging remains.
Click here for more examples.

"Light", "low" and "mild" cigarettes have finally be snuffed out – decades after they were introduced by the tobacco companies to deceive the American public and sustain addiction to cigarettes by implying that these products were safer for smokers. As required by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the tobacco industry will no longer be allowed to manufacture these products as of June 22.

Learn more about what takes effect on June 22 here.

The American Lung Association is now calling on the FDA to stop Big Tobacco's attempt to find a way around this new requirement. Knowing that the end of the use of misleading health descriptors, like "light" and "low tar" was coming, the tobacco companies engaged in marketing campaigns to make consumers associate specific colors with the banned descriptors, as well as the false health claim linked to them.  Along with this color-coding they are also using similar misleading terms such as "smooth" and "silver."

"With a wink and a nod, the tobacco industry has found new ways to continue their deceptive marketing practices to circumvent the new regulations," said Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. "For example, they must drop the word 'light' in their packaging, but have already made it clear to their customers that if they want lights, they just need to look for a package in a specific color, such as gold.

This color-coding lets them perpetuate the false and misleading beliefs among consumers that certain brands are less harmful than other cigarettes. The American Lung Association wants to make sure that the intent of the descriptor ban—stopping the companies from misleading consumers about the relative harm of tobacco products—is met. We urge the FDA to take corrective action by ruling that this new wording or color coding continues to willfully mislead consumers and should be ended immediately."

In addition to the descriptor ban, the Youth Access and Advertising rule also takes effect June 22, severely restricting Big Tobacco's marketing efforts designed to appeal to children and teenagers. This means vending machine sales are only permitted in adult facilities, and the sale of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products to minors will be a federal offense. An additional provision requires new, larger and stronger warning labels on all smokeless tobacco packages and smokeless tobacco product advertisements.

Tobacco companies will also be prohibited from sponsoring sporting and other cultural events as well as selling branded products such as T-shirts, representing "an important step toward ending the predatory marketing campaigns by tobacco companies that target our children," said Connor. "Every day 4,000 young people try cigarettes for the first time, and 1,000 of them will become lifelong smokers."

Tobacco costs our country more than $193 billion each year in health care costs and kills more than 433,000 people annually, and while the new ban descriptor law, and Youth Access and Advertising rule will help to regulate the $89 billion tobacco industry, helping smokers quit is still one of the American Lung Association's biggest priorities. Each year, programs such as our Freedom From Smoking® help tens of thousands of smokers take the big step to quit by providing step-by-step plans, both online (ffsonline.org) and as a group clinic. We also offer smoking cessation counseling and one-on-one support from registered nurses and respiratory therapists through our Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA.

We encourage you to visit, our FDA/Tobacco regulation page, for more in depth information about this life saving law, as well as additional resources to help you quit smoking.