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Implications of the federal court order banning the terms “light” and “mild”: what difference could it make?


Federal District Judge Gladys Kessler found that the major American tobacco companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, defrauding the public by deceptively marketing “light” cigarettes. Judge Kessler’s ruling prohibits the defendant tobacco companies from implying health benefits through using misleading terms such as “light”, “mild” or “low-tar”, or through other indirect means. This ruling could be interpreted narrowly as simply prohibiting certain words, or could be interpreted broadly as prohibiting implying health benefits by any other means, including colour, numbers or images. It is important to include indirect communications, as tobacco companies easily circumvent narrow advertising bans. A narrow interpretation would be inconsistent with the court’s comprehensive factual findings of fraudulent intent by the industry. A broad interpretation of the Order, including existing brands, line extensions and new tobacco products such as potential reduced exposure products that are marketed as “cigarettes”, Judge Kessler’s order could make a substantial contribution to protecting health.

  • FDA, Food and Drug Administration
  • FTC, Federal Trade Commission
  • PREP, potential reduced exposure product
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