American Lung Association Calls on FDA to Crack Down on Big Tobacco’s Color Coding Substitutions for Light Cigarettes

Prohibition of “Light” and “Low” One of Three Major Provisions from Tobacco Control Act to Take Effect on June 22

WASHINGTON, DC (June 14, 2010)

"Light," "low" and "mild" cigarettes will finally be snuffed out on June 22nd – 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 on this date, the one year anniversary of the day President Obama signed the law which gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new powers to regulate the $89 billion tobacco industry. 

Today, the American Lung Association is 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 was coming, the tobacco companies are 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."

Also taking effect on June 22nd is the Youth Access and Adverting rule.  This rule will severely restrict the way the tobacco industry can advertise and sell cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, especially marketing efforts designed to appeal to children and teenagers.  The rule, which was first issued by the FDA in 1996 but after years of court and legislative battles, will finally go into effect. 

The implementation of this rule means selling cigarette or smokeless tobacco products to minors will be a federal offense. There can be no vending machine sales or self-service displays of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco except in adult-only facilities and cigarettes can no longer be sold individually or in packs of fewer than 20.  The rules will also prohibit tobacco companies from selling branded products such as T-shirts and caps and from sponsoring sporting and other cultural events.

"This rule is 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."

Also taking effect on June 22nd is a provision that requires larger, stronger warning labels on all smokeless tobacco packages and in all smokeless tobacco product advertisements.

Tobacco costs our country more than $193 billion each year in health care costs and kills more than 433,000 people annually. The American Lung Association is ready to help smokers who want to quit with our programs that help tens of thousands of smokers take the big step of quitting each year. Freedom From Smoking® provides a personalized step-by-step quit plan and is offered online (www.ffsonline.org) or as a group clinic to help smokers work through the problems and process of quitting. The Lung HelpLine, 1-800-LUNG-USA, provides smoking cessation counseling and one-on-one support from registered nurses and respiratory therapists.