Anti-tobacco activists welcome US report
GENEVA - Activists lobbying for strong global controls on tobacco welcomed a report released today by the US National Cancer Institute that said cigarettes marketed as "light" or "low-tar" were deceiving the public.
They demanded that a global treaty on tobacco control, currently under negotiation in Geneva, include a sweeping ban on what they called misleading labelling.
London-based ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) said the label "light" was one of "the most deadly consumer confidence tricks of all time".
The US report found that although the design of cigarettes had changed over the past 50 years as companies created products advertised as packing less cancer-causing tar, there had been no meaningful change in the health risk.
"Marlboro Lights may soon be a thing of the past -- at least they won't be able to call them 'light'," Clive Bates, director of ASH, said on the sidelines of the third round of negotiations on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
"So-called light cigarettes represent one of the most deadly consumer confidence tricks of all times," he added. "There must be thousands of smokers who were fooled into thinking light cigarettes were a reason not to quit."
The European Union, Brazil, Canada and some other countries have banned terms such as "low tar", "light", "ultra light" and "mild", but face legal challenges from the tobacco industry.
Judith Wilkenfeld of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, of Washington DC, said: "This report provides powerful scientific evidence for the world's nations, collectively and individually, to protect their citizens by prohibiting the tobacco industry from continuing to make deceptive health claims about their products."
She called for the Framework Convention, due by 2003, to include a ban on such terms as "light" and on trademarks suggesting a particular tobacco product was less harmful than others.
The current round of negotiations on the tobacco control treaty, being held under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO), ends on Wednesday.
The lobby groups also want an outright ban on tobacco advertising and tighter controls on smuggling included in the treaty.