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'Light' Labels on the Way Out
While much of the public may still believe the "lighter" claims, federal officials no longer do.
Last April, Congress passed the most sweeping reform legislation ever to target the tobacco industry, giving the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products.
As a result, words such as light, ultra-light, mild, and low-tar will no longer be permitted on cigarette packaging starting next June.
But Matt Myers, who is president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tells WebMD the tobacco companies are already working on ways to circumvent the new law.
"The products will no doubt remain, but they will be called something else," he says. "The goal was to eliminate the terms and imagery that has led consumers to view these products as less hazardous. FDA will have to remain vigilant to make sure that goal is met."
RJ Reynolds Tobacco spokesman David Howard tells WebMD the company will use color designations to replace the banned terms on its Pall Mall and Salem brands.
For example, cigarettes the company now labels 'light' will have a blue package, while those labeled 'ultra-light' will have an orange package, he says.
The color designation has been used in other countries, like Europe, which long ago banned labeling terms that imply certain tobacco products are safer than others.
"The bottom line is that tobacco consumers need a way to distinguish what brands and styles they want to purchase, and retail clerks also need a way to identify them," he says.
Myers counters that changing the color of the packaging is just another way to mislead consumers.
"We would like to see FDA provide more detailed directives to the tobacco companies telling them what will and will not be permitted," he says.