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Changing the future of tobacco marketing by understanding the mistakes of the past: lessons from “Lights”
  1. Diane Canovaa,
  2. Matthew L Myersb,
  3. Daniel E Smithc,
  4. John Sladed
  1. aAmerican Heart Association, Washington, DC, USA, bNational Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, Washington, DC, USA, cAmerican Cancer Society, Washington, DC, USA, dSchool of Public Health, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
  1. John Slade, MD, Program in Addictions UMDNJ, School of Public Health, 317 George Street, Suite 201, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USAsladejo{at}

Statistics from

Over the past 30 years, increasing numbers of smokers have switched to low tar cigarette brands in the hopes of reducing the harm from smoking. We now know, however, that the public health benefit of low tar cigarettes is likely negligible, or actually negative, because the evidence indicates that (1) the health risks of smoking have increased, not decreased, despite the proliferation of low tar cigarettes,1 and (2) it appears that more people are smoking than would be the case were these products not on the market.2 The public health community should now deliver a clear, consistent message to the public that effectively debunks the popular myth that “Light” cigarettes are significantly less hazardous than other brands or a legitimate alternative to quitting.

Message elements

Evidence regarding the discrepancy between machine based yields and actual human exposure was first published in the early 1980s.3 4 Yet, the tobacco industry continues to promote these products in ways that confuse consumers. As a result, the general public still harbours false hope that there are important health benefits associated with low tar products.5-7 It is essential, therefore, that this information, long known within the scientific community, finally makes its way to the public. What then are some of the key messages that we need to communicate to the public?

First, consumers should know that there are no standards governing what is called a “Light” cigarette, and that …

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