International Issues

Light and Low-Tar Cigarettes

"By engaging in this deception, [the tobacco companies] dramatically increased their sales of low tar/light cigarettes, assuaged the fears of smokers about the health risks of smoking, and sustained corporate revenues in the face of mounting evidence about the health effects of smoking..."
— Judge Gladys Kessler in U.S. v. Phillips Morris, 2006

Decades of Fraud on Government and Consumers

The "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes are perhaps the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on consumers in the West. For decades, the tobacco industry deceived governments, health professionals and, most importantly, smokers in the United States and Europe.

All were led to believe that "light" cigarettes delivered less tar and nicotine and that therefore "lights" were less harmful than regular cigarettes.

Decades after the emergence of these products, it is clear that "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes are not less harmful than regular cigarettes and have not lowered disease risk among smokers.

Tobacco companies are now targeting low- and middle-income countries with these deceptive marketing tactics

The Truth About "Light" and "Low-tar" Cigarettes

  • Tobacco companies have known for decades that "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes are no safer than regular cigarettes.
  • The tobacco industry designed "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes to convince health-concerned smokers to switch cigarette brands rather than quit.
  • The tobacco industry manipulated the design of cigarettes to produce lower levels of tar and nicotine when measured by machine tests than when smoked by humans.
  • The tobacco companies’ deceptive marketing practices have resulted in many smokers mistakenly believing that "light" cigarettes have less tar and offer a way to reduce the risk of smoking.
  • The use of false health claims to market "light" cigarettes encourages non-smokers to start smoking and discourage smokers from quitting.
  • The increased consumption of cigarettes labeled "light" and "low-tar" have not resulted in any decline in disease risk for smokers. There is no such thing as a safe cigarette.

Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires Parties to the treaty to adopt and implement measures to ensure that tobacco product packaging and labeling are not misleading, false or deceptive, including banning terms such as "light," "low-tar" and "mild."