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'Light' Cigarettes Mislead Smokers

Apr 21, 2003 | www.haaretzdaily.com In Israel, as in Europe and the United States, cigarette makers and legal authorities are weighing the legality and legitimacy of using terms such as "light," "ultra light" and "mild" in describing cigarettes.

The official responsible for consumer protection at the Industry and Trade Ministry, attorney Yitzhak Kimchi, has considered the various terms and concluded that their use is misleading to the consumer public, in contravention of the directives of the Consumer Protection Law of 1981. As a result, Kimchi has asked for written opinions from local cigarette importers and manufacturers. Once these are received, he will decide on what steps to take.

"A significant share of people who smoke light cigarettes and/or cigarettes with low levels of tar believe that these are likely to be less harmful to their health, but this is not the case," says Kimchi. "The FTC (the U.S. Federal Trade Commission) informed the public that the listing of tar and nicotine levels in cigarettes is not a good indicator of the amount of tar and nicotine absorbed by the body, since the style of smoking, which varies from one individual to the next, can significantly affect the quantity of substances absorbed in the body."

For instance, Kimchi says, studies reveal that people who smoke "light" cigarettes are inclined to reward themselves for the low nicotine level by taking deeper and more frequent drags when they smoke.

European Union countries have drafted a formula that forbids use of these and similar terms, which will go into effect in September. Tobacco giant Philip Morris recently lost a lawsuit in which the judge ruled it had deceived smokers into thinking such cigarettes were safer than others by using the term "lights."

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