As consumers, we made best-selling brands out of foods and beverages that have descriptors like: "light," "diet," "low [insert noun here]." I often respond to these terms because of my desire to be healthier. These products make me feel like I'm doing what I can to cut down on hollow calories and unnecessary artificial additives.
In many cases, the "light" or "low-something" food or beverage claims to taste the same and smell the same, but, importantly, it's better for consumers than the regular product with the high carb count and additional calories. When it comes to cigarettes however, the health benefits of a "light" cigarette are nonexistent.
Recent findings from a survey conducted by GSK show that more than one-third of smokers misunderstand the health impact of "light" or "mild" cigarettes. An equal number of smokers believe that smoking light cigarettes as a way to ultimately quit smoking is as safe--or safer--, as compared to nicotine replacement therapies. As you likely know, nicotine replacement therapies are proven safe and effective, since their labeling and claims are regulated by the FDA. There is no scientifically recognized evidence that any type of light, low-tar, or mild cigarette is less harmful or any easier to quit than regular cigarettes.
Fortunately, one of the recent mandates of the historic legislation giving the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco has banned the use of words such as "light," "low," and "mild" on all packaging and advertising of cigarettes and smokeless products. While some tobacco consumers will, unfortunately, still believe the years of misleading labeling and promotion of "light" cigarettes at least there won't be any wording on the packaging to reinforce the misperception that smokers are somehow doing a favor to their health and bodies by using these products. Those of us in the business of helping people quit smoking have won an important battle with this legislation. However, we haven't won the war.
To counteract, tobacco companies are using a highly-publicized marketing loophole to get around the new law - lighter colors in their packaging to indicate light or low-tar varieties of cigarettes.
Of the 66 percent of smokers in the earlier mentioned survey considering a serious attempt to quit in the next six months, only 42 percent thought they could quit on their own. Many (40 percent) incorrectly believed they could switch to smoking a lighter-colored pack of cigarettes which would somehow make quitting easier.
As research and experience continues to prove, the best way to quit, is to stop smoking completely using proven tools like nicotine replacement therapy and behavioral support programs. GSK will continue to help smokers realize that it's time to skip the "light" middle man and quit for good.