Misperceptions about 'light,' 'low,' 'mild' cigarettes

Today, new legislation will go into effect surrounding the ban of word descriptors such as "light," "low," and "mild" on all packaging and advertising of existing cigarettes and smokeless products. However, a new survey, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare, shows that many smokers will choose the cigarettes in lighter-colored packaging because they incorrectly believe these cigarettes would be less harmful to their health or make it easier to quit smoking.

The survey shows more than one-third of smokers misunderstand the health impact of "light" or "mild" cigarettes. Almost half of smokers surveyed (44 percent) say they typically smoke "light" or "ultra light" cigarettes, with one-quarter of these smokers saying they do so because they mistakenly believe "light" cigarettes are less harmful and/or easier to quit than regular cigarettes.

The majority (68 percent) of smokers also say the changes prohibiting the words "light" or "mild" will not make it difficult for them to identify their preferred type of cigarettes. Eighty-seven percent say even without the words on the label, they will be able to identify what would constitute "light" cigarettes by the color and design of the packaging.

"Research has shown that many smokers choose light cigarettes because they believe these cigarettes may be less harmful to their health, and even make it easier to quit smoking," said Saul Shiffman, Ph.D., professor in the departments of psychology and pharmaceutical science at the University of Pittsburgh and Senior Scientific Advisor at Pinney Associates, which provides consulting services to GlaxoSmithKline. "Repackaged light cigarettes with different colors are just as deadly as packs bearing the lights descriptor. The best way to reduce the health risks caused by smoking is to stop smoking completely. Nicotine replacement therapy is safe and effective, and proven to help a smoker get off cigarettes and manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms during the process."

GSK's survey shows that while almost two-thirds of smokers say they have made a serious attempt to quit, only 42 percent feel they would be able to quit on their own, and despite needing help, nearly half (46 percent) are unaware that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can improve one's chances of quitting successfully. Misperceptions about the products designed to help smokers quit also exist - 40 percent incorrectly believe light cigarettes are just as safe or safer as a means of quitting compared to NRT.

NRT products have helped millions of people around the world quit smoking and, as a result, have significantly reduced their exposure to the risks of cancer and other smoking-related diseases. They are recommended as first-line treatments for smoking addiction in the U.S. and can reliably increase long-term smoking abstinence rates.

Smokers interested in quitting can access free tools and resources at Nicorette.com and facebook.com/nicorette.  


GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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