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Does tobacco industry marketing of 'light' cigarettes give smokers a rationale for postponing quitting?

Research paper by Elizabeth A EA Gilpin, Sherry S Emery, Martha M MM White, John P JP Pierce

Indexed on: 08 Feb '03Published on: 08 Feb '03Published in: Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco



Abstract

The objective of this analysis was to examine further whether tobacco industry marketing using the labels light and ultra-light is perceived by smokers as a health claim. Smokers might view low tar/nicotine brands of cigarettes as a means to reduce the harm to their health from smoking and postpone quitting. Data were from smokers responding to a large, population-based survey of Californians' smoking behavior, conducted in 1996 (8,582 current smokers). Sixty percent of smokers thought the labels light and ultra-light referred to low tar/nicotine cigarettes, or otherwise implied a health claim. This percentage was higher for smokers of low tar/nicotine brands. Among smokers of regular brands, the more highly addicted, those who were trying unsuccessfully to quit, those who had cut consumption or thought about it, and those with health concerns were more likely to have considered switching. While some of these characteristics also were associated with smokers of low tar/nicotine brands, the associations were not as numerous or as strong. We conclude that some smokers appear to view low tar/nicotine brands as one short-term strategy to reduce the harm to their health from smoking without quitting. By implying reduced tar or nicotine exposure, tobacco industry marketing using the labels light and ultra-light is misleading smokers. The use of such labels should be regulated.