New research from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) shows that one year after the federal government passed a law banning word descriptors such as “light,” “mild,” and “low” on cigarette packages, smokers can still easily identify their brands because of color-coding that tobacco companies added to “light” packs after the ban. These findings suggest that the companies have, in effect, been able to evade the ban on misleading wording—thus still conveying the false and deceptive message that lights are safer than “regular” cigarettes.

In addition, the companies failed to apply for applications to have these products approved as “new products” as called for by the law.

The study was published online March 13, 2013 in Tobacco Control.

“The tobacco industry was found guilty by a federal court in 2006 for deceptively promoting ‘light’ cigarettes as safer after countless smokers who switched to lights died prematurely, thinking they had reduced their health risks. After a new federal law was passed in 2009 to end the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing practices, the industry has apparently circumvented it by using new and sophisticated ways to deceive consumers and has not sought Food and Drug Administration approval for these products as required by law,” said study co-author Gregory N. Connolly, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at HSPH and professor of the practice of public health in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

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