A US law went into effect on Tuesday barring tobacco companies from selling so-called “light” cigarettes, but anti-tobacco groups say the rule does nothing since many makers are simply selling the same cigarette by using color-coded packages.
The law, signed a year ago by President Barack Obama, regulates the tobacco industry for the first and prohibits packaging using the terms “light,” “ultra-light,” “mild,” or “low” — which are thought to mislead smokers into believing these cigarettes are less harmful to their health.
Regulators and tobacco companies, however, are still fighting over how the new law will be implemented. Some experts and activists say that switching to terms such as “gold” and “silver” instead of “light” and “ultra-light” will still continue to mislead consumers.
Charles Connor, president of the American Lung Association, told the AFP news agency, “The tobacco industry has found new ways to continue their deceptive marketing practices to circumvent the new regulations.”
Connor explained that although companies must drop, for example, the word “light” in their packages, “they 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.”
The Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to Philip Morris USA questioning the terms included in its Marlboro Lights packs before the ban took effect.
The phrase “Your Marlboro Lights pack is changing. But your cigarette stays the same. In the future, ask for “ËœMarlboro in the gold pack.'” appeared on the Marlboro Light boxes.
The FDA asked for documentation from the tobacco firm to determine if it was deliberately evading the law.
Matthew Myers, of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, applauded the FDA’s actions. “We call on Philip Morris to go beyond the actions called for by the FDA and immediately stop” using these materials, he told AFP.
Under the new law, tobacco companies will also not be allowed to sponsor any athletic, musical or cultural events. The law restricts distribution of free samples and prohibits sales of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco to those under the age of 18.
“As we complete our first year executing this important new responsibility, FDA has much to be proud of and much yet to do to improve public health through effective tobacco regulation,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
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