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Millions of Americans smoke "light" (sometimes referred to or labeled as "mild", or “low-tar") cigarettes, believing such cigarettes to be less harmful than other types of cigarettes. Some light cigarette packaging is marked as "safer" or even “harmless”. But a study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that switching to lower-yield cigarettes is not likely to reduce tar intake and the resulting risks for disease.
The claims by the tobacco companies had been based, in part, by a reduction in machine-measured tar yields using the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) testing method. But two studies conducted more than 20 years apart by the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that, while machine-measured tar yield had decreased, the risk for lung cancer for the smokers in the second study had increased. An increase in lung cancer risk was seen even when the duration of smoking and the number of cigarettes smoked per day were factored into the analysis.
Other studies have found that machine measurement of cigarette tar yield using the FTC method does not suitably mimic human smoking behavior, which may account for the ACS study results.
For one, many smokers cover the filter’s vent holes that are found in most low-tar cigarettes. The holes are meant to allow air to dilute the smoke. But since they remain unobstructed in machine testing, the measurements result in misleadingly low tar and nicotine levels.
Smokers who switch to light cigarettes also tend to compensate for lower nicotine levels by drawing smoke more frequently, rapidly, or deeply, or by increasing the number of cigarettes they smoke.
More nefariously, internal tobacco industry documents reveal early knowledge by the industry of the discrepancy between FTC machine-measured yields of tar and nicotine and what smoker’s actually inhale.
Surveys have indicated that smokers most interested in quitting use “light” or “ultra-light” labeled cigarette brands. And there is evidence suggesting that tobacco industry marketing strategies included preventing consumers from quitting smoking by reassuring them that low-tar products are safer alternatives to regular cigarettes.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness associated with smoking light, or low-tar cigarettes, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a qualified personal injury attorney for an evaluation of your case.
Brain injury and smoking addiction