Many Smokers Still Deceived by Cigarette Labeling

Findings support efforts to mandate plain packaging, researchers say

TUESDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- Many smokers in western nations still incorrectly believe that certain types of cigarettes, such as "mild" and "low tar" brands, are less of a health risk than others, a new study shows.

Researchers surveyed more than 8,000 smokers in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, and found that about one-fifth of them wrongly believed that "some cigarettes could be less harmful than others."

The study also found that many smokers incorrectly believed that slim cigarettes are less harmful, smooth-tasting cigarettes are less risky than hard-tasting cigarettes, filters reduce risk, and nicotine is responsible for most of the cancers caused by cigarettes.

The findings were published April 12 in the journal Addiction.

The researchers noted that more than 50 countries have banned the use of labels such as "light," "mild" and "low tar" on cigarettes. In response, some companies have changed their "light" cigarettes to "silver" and "gold" brands. For example, Marlboro Lights have become Marlboro Gold. A large percentage of smokers now equate those colors with low-risk cigarettes, said the study authors.

"The findings highlight the deceptive potential of 'slim' cigarette brands targeted primarily at young women. The findings also support the potential health benefits of plain packaging regulations that will soon take effect in Australia, under which all cigarettes will be sold in packages with the same plain color, without graphics or logos," study co-author Dr. David Hammond said in a journal news release.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about smoking, tobacco and health.

Robert Preidt SOURCES: Addiction, news release, April 12, 2011

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