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In recent months, there has been mounting concern about two new and apparently related developments.
First, a previously unknown non-governmental organisation (NGO) had appeared on the scene, predominantly web-based and calling itself simply www.LowTobaclife.com. Its website carried a range of soft lifestyle features, and in a health section, apparently credible advice about tobacco. However, this led on to “Doctor’s quotes on Low Tobacco Cigarette” [sic], which led readers into a discussion strongly reminiscent of the discredited industry line that what is really needed for smokers who cannot give up is a new, reduced toxicity product. There was no information about who was behind the new NGO, which was starting to receive widespread publicity. What was of most concern to health advocates was that its spokesperson was quoted alongside comments from established tobacco control organisations. In June, the NGO took its first newspaper advertisement, in the Mumbai edition of The Times of India, informing readers, “Tobacco is injurious. Go Low on Tobacco. High on Life”, and inviting them to visit its website.
Next, and more serious, came the news that a new brand of cigarette had been launched, called LoeTabac, made by an Indian company, GTC Industries Limited (formerly known as Golden Tobacco Company Limited). The near-identical names of the new brand and the new NGO seemed too great to be a coincidence, and suspicions of a formal link were strongly reinforced by the appearance of the slogan “High on life” under the brand name on the pack. GTC was reported as claiming that LoeTabac had been found to have “safer delivery levels” of tar, carbon monoxide and tobacco-specific nitrosamines than other brands.
This is clearly a worrying development, seemingly aimed at the millions of addicted smokers who desperately hope that by changing to a new brand like this, they may escape the majority of risks of continued smoking. Holding out the prospect of “safer” smoking was being perpetrated by the big tobacco companies in countries such as the UK and the USA more than a quarter of a century ago, and it seemed reasonable to hope that they would not be seen in the 21st century. Of course, it is just possible that the new brand could be significantly different, but it would take a long time for a properly designed trial to prove it. It is to be hoped that the Indian government steps in to investigate and, at the very least, regulate it properly.
Meanwhile, even the tobacco trade journal Tobacco Reporter observed that the international marketing of the brand “will raise some interesting questions in some countries” and that the suggestion in the word “Loe” and the slogan “High on Life” slogan below the brand name “might well cause apoplexy among some health ministers”. And probably among some readers of Tobacco Control, too.
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